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Overall Rating
2.8

Awesome: 6.67%
Worth A Look46.67%
Average: 6.67%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 40%

2 reviews, 3 user ratings


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Pitch Perfect 2
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Pitches, Man. . ."
1 stars

In one of the odder booking decisions of recent vintage, the press screening of "Pitch Perfect 2" was scheduled directly after the showing of "Mad Max: Fury Road." Obviously, the idea of following up one of the biggest cinematic thrill rides of all time with anything, let alone a wacky comedy about a cappella singers, sounds patently ridiculous on the surface (though to be fair, trying to follow "Fury Road" with anything would begin akin to trying to follow James Brown in concert at his performing peak) but I suppose that the two films do have a few similarities to speak of. Both are eagerly-awaited sequels to films with fanatic fan bases and both happen to offer female-heavy narratives that stand in marked contrast to the otherwise testosterone-heavy multiplex offerings on tap for the summer. The difference, however, is that while "Fury Road" makes every effort to dazzle viewers and defy their expectations by giving them stunning new sights to see contained within a fascinating narrative, "Pitch Perfect 2" is a lazy-ass exercise in money-grubbing that pushes aside whatever minor charms the original possessed for a rehash that is bigger without being better and surprisingly mean-spirited at times to boot. Hell, "Fury Road" even has a more inspired musical number than any of the ones found here, but I digress.

When we last saw the Bellas, the rag-tag all-female a cappella group had just triumphed over all adversity to win the national a cappella championship. When we pick up the story, they have won their third straight championship and are planning to celebrate their efforts with a victory tour before graduation. Unfortunately, those plans are scuttled when a performance before the Obamas goes spectacularly wrong and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) winds up inadvertently flashing her nether regions for all to see. This is such a horrifying spectacle that the Bellas are stripped of their duties by the a cappella council, represented here by clueless commentators (Elizabeth Banks, who also directed the film) and (John Michael Higgins) and replaced by the fearsome German group Das Sound Machine, a collective as light and frothy as their name suggests. The only shot they have at reinstatement is to win the a cappella world championship competition in Copenhagen, a feat that no American team has ever managed to pull off.

To even come close to pulling off such a feat requires total Bella dedication and while some members like Chloe (Brittany Snow)--the former leader who has deliberately flunked her last three years of college in order to stay with the group (and the sequel)--are up to the challenge, others are not so sure. Current leader Beca (Anna Kendrick) is secretly working as an intern at a local recording studio under the supervision of a powerful music producer (Keegan-Michael Key) and is now more interested in pursuing her future as a music producer than in working with the group. Meanwhile, Fat Amy is continuing her theoretically clandestine romance with the dopey Bumper (Adam DeVine) but has a surprising reaction when he wants to make their relationship official. Meanwhile, the sole new Bella, legacy and budding songwriter Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), is trying to push the group from the usual cover songs and into original material and to abandon their increasingly elaborate stagecraft in order to focus on the real reason they have come together--the music.

Truth be told, I was not a fan of the original "Pitch Perfect"--it struck me as little more than an overlong episode of "Glee" populated with characters I did not care about and music that was not especially compelling. Of course, the film went on to be a massive hit and while I have occasionally been tempted to give it another shot on cable to see if maybe I was just having a bad day when I saw it, I have never quite gotten around to it, largely because every time I come across it, it is always at the part where someone has just projectile-vomited all over the floor and the weirdo Korean girl (Hana Mae Lee) jumps in to start making a puke angel. Now that I have seen "Pitch Perfect 2," my mild desire to revisit the original has more or less been sated and it appears that my opinion will stand because everything that I remember irking me in the original has been amplified this time around.

For one thing, I did not find myself caring even a bit about the Bellas and whether they would somehow triumph over adversity, pull together as a unit and desecrate a perfectly good pop song or two in the process. There is the germ of a reasonably decent story here in the idea of the Bellas getting too much into the stagecraft and needing to get back to the music while at the same time preparing to take off into the adult world--maybe not the most original idea but one that could have been spun out into something satisfactory. Instead, screenwriter Kay Cannon seems to be going out of her way to complicate things with needless subplots (such as the rivalry with the overly cartoonish Germans), contrived conflicts (exactly why does Beca need to keep her internship a secret from the other Bellas) and moments of just plain stupidity (such as a bit involving Snoop Lion attempting to record a Christmas album that is rescued by Beca's alleged brilliance as a producer). Consider the opening sequence in which Fat Amy inadvertently flashes her crotch to the world. This was clearly intended to serve as a spoof on how we as a people can still be shocked and horrified beyond measure (or belief) every time someone snaps an illicit photo of some starlet accidentally revealing that she is going commando. Alas, Banks mishandles this bit so badly that not only does it fail to earn any laughs, it more or less carries forth the idea that there are few things in the world more grotesque than the sight of a vagina, an odd sentiment to convey to a film whose target audience is largely populated by the young female demographic.

If that were the only overtly unpleasant attempt at humor to be had, I suppose I might have gotten over it but "Pitch Perfect 2," like its predecessor, demonstrates a mean streak in its comedy that is weirdly off-putting, especially when it comes to any minority character that comes into view. Although the Bellas are a multi-cultural group, you can be assured that only the white ones have anything resembling characters to play while the minorities are literally reduced to one-joke caricatures. There is a black lesbian (Ester Dean) who serves no other purpose other than to remind people that she is a lesbian and to take point whenever the music drifts into the area of hip-hop. There is the aforementioned weird Korean girl who does nothing but occasionally mutter something insane. There is a newcomer from Guatemala (Chrissie Fit) whose only purpose is to make wacky jokes about her harrowing journey to America and how she will probably be deported. Again, none of this stuff is necessarily wrong in theory but whatever satirical intent there may have initially been was clearly lost in translation and while I would stop short of calling it racist (if only because there are plenty of other characters that it fails to develop in any meaningful way), it does leave a bad taste in the mouth afterwards.

Of course, things aren't much better for the major characters. Anna Kendrick can be a delight--her performance in "The Last 5 Years" is one of the best that you will see this year and she almost made "Into the Woods" tolerable whenever she was on the screen--but she seems almost as eager and determined to gain the freedom to do her own thing as Beca. Whatever spark she had the first time around has long since disappeared and she is clearly just going through the motions here. Once again, the big scene stealer is Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy and while she still manages to get most of the meager amount of genuine laughs on display, it quickly becomes evident that most of her scenes are extended improv sessions that have precious little to do with the story at hand and the ones that do show a shocking disregard for her character--why would someone as bold and fearless as Fat Amy be so reticent to make her romance public except to serve as a screenplay contrivance leading to the big scene where she tries to win the dope back with a cringe-worthy run at the Pat Benatar classic "We Belong." As the newcomer, Hailee Steinfeld is undeniably charming but she has virtually nothing to do except to eventually ascend in the end to the position of the focus of a presumed third installment of the franchise--if you are going to center a series around a new character, you should probably give viewers some reason to actually care about the character beforehand.

Unless the notion of paying $10 or so to see other people doing karaoke appeals to you, "Pitch Perfect 2" has virtually nothing to offer--the screenplay somehow manages to be both incredibly contrived and gossamer-thin, the characters are forgettable, the song selection is mundane and the single genuine laugh to be had involves the highly unexpected appearance of several members of the Green Bay Packers. Throw in the creative laziness that goes part and parcel with a sequel that exists only because the first film made a lot of money and not because it has any story to tell and the result is one desultory night at the movies. Of course, none of this will presumably matter much to the undeniable fan base that made the original a sleeper hit but considering that this is a close to a sure thing from a financial perspective as one could possibly hope to produce, the refusal to use that cushion as a way to do something other than a half-hearted repeat of the familiar stuff is an undeniable bummer. "We spit on originals" is a line overheard at one point and while it is specifically referring to the notion of performing original songs as opposed to covers, it sadly seems to have been the film's mantra.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=26971&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/15/15 07:41:36
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User Comments

9/22/15 Kyndal Smith I thought it was a really cute movie. Fun to watch with my preteen daughter :D 3 stars
5/25/15 Brittany Petros Not bad, have seen worst movies. 4 stars
5/18/15 Bob Dog Funniest movie since Get Hard - awesome satirical musical sequel! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  15-May-2015 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-Sep-2015

UK
  15-May-2015 (12A)

Australia
  07-May-2015
  DVD: 22-Sep-2015




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