“Pitch Perfect 2” Is An Admirably Dressed Sequel To The Hit Musical-Comedy

Less surprising than a Pitch Perfect sequel is first time director and star Elizabeth Banks taking the helm. Thankfully she does a great job is this entertaining film.

Pitch Perfect 2 directed by Elizabeth Banks / starring Anna Kendrick - Top 10 FilmsThe success of Pitch Perfect didn’t come as a surprise. Not only did it tap into an appetite for high school musical comedy (thanks largely to TV’s Glee) but it gave then-emerging star Anna Kendrick a vehicle to show-off her multitude of performing talents. She smashed it, as they say. A sequel was almost inevitable and thankfully it shapes up quite nicely despite actress Elizabeth Banks stepping behind the camera for the first time. The debutant, who has shone in both TV and film (including the first Pitch Perfect as sharp-tongued broadcaster Gail Abernathy-McKadden) and shown a real skill for comedic timing, displays all her experience behind the lens in Pitch Perfect 2 by capturing the spirit of the previous chapter while taking the story onward and upward.

In some respects, the film is an exercise in box ticking. The song mash-ups are present, relevant, up to date and competently shoehorned into the story; there’s teen angst, crises of identity, dreams made-broken-and-made-again, a bit of romance, a giant climax, and Rebel Wilson saying crude things. Those who saw the first instalment – and let’s face it, most of Pitch Perfect 2’s audience will be familiar with these characters, – will recognise the traits that made part 1 a box office smash reappear again here. But that’s no bad thing. Indeed, Pitch Perfect 2 gives its target audience exactly what they want in a sequel and the success of that is by maintaining the status quo.

The film picks up the story as the a cappella college group the Barden Bellas begrudgingly prepare for life after university. Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick) has already set her heart on producing music but the others appear to cling to ambitions that centre around singing competition. However, after Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy splits her trousers on stage during a show for President Obama, the Bellas are suspended from any US-based a cappella event. Hatching a deal with the organisers that allows the Bellas back in if they win the World Championships, the group are faced with the almost impossible task of uprooting the seemingly unstoppable German’s known as Das Sound Machine.

Pitch Perfect 2 directed by Elizabeth Banks / starring Anna Kendrick - Top 10 Films

Kendrick’s Beca is still the star of the show – the Bellas’ music director and spiritual leader – but her character knows the fun of college has an expiry date and is now preoccupied with an internship at a recording studio. In her wake, “super senior” Chloe Beale (Brittany Snow), who refuses to graduate in order to remain a “Bella”, assumes leadership duties alongside loose cannon Amy (Wilson) who together invite legacy Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld), whose mother is a former singer in the group, to join after an impromptu audition.

…the film is an exercise in box ticking. The song mash-ups are present, relevant, up to date and competently shoehorned into the story; there’s teen angst, crises of identity, dreams made-broken-and-made-again, a bit of romance, a giant climax, and Rebel Wilson saying crude things. But that’s no bad thing. Indeed, Pitch Perfect 2 gives its target audience exactly what they want in a sequel and the success of that is by maintaining the status quo.

The fact Kendrick is away from the group gives Revel Wilson more screen time. It’s a blessing and a curse depending on your disposition to sexual innuendo and one-liners. For me, it works. Director Banks strikes a nice balance between the two star superpowers of this franchise with both actresses’ Hollywood weight growing off the back of the first film. There are satisfactory subplots running parallel to the Bellas’ pursuit of another big prize. Amy’s relationship to Adam DeVine’s Bumper Allen amusingly becomes more than a friend-with-benefits, while Beca must make the best use of her talents while also accepting her shortcomings in pursuit of a dream to become a professional music producer.

In the meantime, the eager-to-please Emily, played by Oscar-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld, gives the group a refreshing injection of new blood. Also part of Banks’ rebalancing act is a reduced role for Beca’s love interest Jesse Swanson (Skylar Astin) who must resign himself to cheerleader duties as Modern Family and Workaholics star Adam DeVine gets more time to shine. Thankfully, and unsurprisingly, the director has ensured there’s plenty of funny banter between John Michael Higgins’ ill-equipped competition commentator John Smith and his co-anchor Gail Abernathy-McKadden.

Pitch Perfect 2 directed by Elizabeth Banks / starring Anna Kendrick - Top 10 Films

Aside from the delightful Kendrick, the real strength of the first Pitch Perfect was the pop music composition and choreography. To strip the sequel of its director John Moore, whose experience on- and off-Broadway has seen him oversee productions such as Les Misérables and Jerry Springer: The Opera, could be seen as a major stumbling block. Yet, while an underground a cappella “fight club” mimicking the empty swimming pool “riff-off” in the original film, and the finale of the World Championships, don’t quite match Moore’s entertaining, character-driven orchestration, they’re still worthy alternative sequences cut from the same cloth. Pitch Perfect 2 also benefits from a memorably cheesy solo effort from Rebel Wilson and the terrifically catchy original ballad Flashlight recorded specially for the film by Jessie J and beautifully performed by the Bellas in the World Finals.

As a streamlined, pop-centric comedy-drama Pitch Perfect 2 is an admirably dressed sequel to its smash hit big brother. Audiences who enjoyed the first film will have no trouble singing along with their favourite characters once again.

Pitch Perfect 2 - Four Stars

Written by Daniel Stephens

Pitch Perfect 2 directed by Elizabeth Banks / starring Anna Kendrick - Top 10 FilmsDirected by: Elizabeth Banks
Written by: Kay Cannon
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine, Katey Sagal, Anna Camp, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks
Released: 2015 / Genre: Musical-Comedy
Country: USA / IMDB
More reviews: Latest | Archive

Pitch Perfect 2 is released in the UK on DVD/Blu-ray September 21 courtesy of Universal

About the Author
Editor of Top 10 Films, Dan Stephens is usually found pondering his next list. An unhealthy love of 1980s Hollywood sees most of his top 10s involving a time-travelling DeLorean and an adventurous archaeologist going by the name Indiana.

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  1. Dan Grant Reply

    Nice write up Dan. I was pretty happy with the success of this film as Banks is one of my faves and Kendrick is as well. Here’s what I wrote about this film on another web site I frequent.

    This is a film that made more in its opening weekend than the original did in its entire run. I know there were a few members here who had this breaking out, but most didn’t, giving it a small increase but nothing like what it did. Here’s an unlikely film to top the charts. It’s about a singing all female group with very little male presence in the movie and people of all ages and genders were coming out in droves to see it. This also might be the film that turns Elizabeth Banks from that pretty girl who was in the Spiderman movies, to a major force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. She produced, co-stared and directed it and in turn walked out with a very big payday.

    • Dan Reply

      Thanks Dan. I thought the film did a good job of giving the story some momentum while recalling what made the first film a success. To say this is Banks’ first go at feature length direction – she did a great job.

  2. Nostra Reply

    Personally I thought this second one simply wasn’t as good as the original, plus that final battle….Das Sound Machine was clearly better!

    • Dan Reply

      Yeah, it isn’t as good as the first film and a little bit samey but there’s enough in there to give it a fresh injection of originality while bringing back what made the first film so enjoyable.

  3. Dan Grant Reply

    The thing about sequels is you don’t want to re-invent the wheel. They knew what made the first work so well and they stuck with it. It might not be a revolutionary sequel but the box office and the multiplier (amount it made after it’s opening weekend) indicates that it pleased its fans.

  4. Evan Crean Reply

    I loved the development of Amy’s relationship with Bumper in the film. It was charming and funny. I enjoyed the energy and intensity of Pitch Perfect 2, especially in the competition scenes. But I was disappointed by how the Bellas didn’t get more good scenes and even more disappointed by some of the movie’s mean humor with regard to ethnic characters who merely exist to be the butt of jokes.

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