‘Pitch Perfect 2’ Review: A welcome repetition

Oggs Cruz
''Pitch Perfect 2,' despite all its jokes, feels more grounded, more serious,' writes Oggs Cruz

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

It has been 3 long years since Beca (Anna Kendrick) salvaged the Barden Bellas from being forever remembered as that all-female a cappellagroup whose soloist famously vomited on stage. Beca led the Bellas to a victory at Nationals, and that success would have them singing in front of the president, and be remembered for being the rags-to-riches story that they have been so far.  

Except that Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), belting out Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” while hanging on strips of cloth, has a major wardrobe malfunction.

WARDROBE MALFUNCTION. Rebel Wilson in 'Fat Amy' in 'Pitch Perfect 2.' Screengrab from YouTube

The embarrassment eventually leads to the Bellas being barred from performing on tour and recruiting any more members. 

 

Their only shot at redemption is to win the World Championships, where they have to face Das Sound Machine, a German group whose stiff and humorless members seem genetically modified to reach high notes while performing acrobatic stunts. (A Fil-Am group called The Filharmonic makes an appearance too, by the way.) 

THE FILHARMONIC. The Fil-Am group makes an appearance in 'Pitch Perfect 2.' Screengrab from YouTube

More grounded

The sequel’s an obvious retread of the first film, successful by virtue of its odd mix of irreverent humor and cornball sentimentality. However, while the first film felt fresh, outrageous, and perfectly timed to give closeted Glee fans a chance at enjoying cheesy mash-ups of contemporary pop songs without sacrificing being cool, Pitch Perfect 2 feels uneven, less a lampoon like the original.

It is as if the sequel lost a huge chunk of the original’s carefree playfulness with its overt efforts to be a tad more mature than necessary. Pitch Perfect 2, despite all its jokes and ridiculousness, feels more grounded, more serious. 

This isn’t saying that Pitch Perfect 2 is an absolute bore. It isn’t. Even with long stretches where jokes aren’t that funny and the musical numbers feel too extravagant for comfort, the film still maintains a steady foothold on what made the original feel so delightful. 

Choice scenes 

There are scenes in the film that are simply golden. In the basement of a suspiciously obsessed a cappellafan (creepy-funny David Cross in a silken robe), the top vocal groups engage in a sing-off where each of them will perform a rendition of pop hits, randomly categorized by virtue of their connection to butts or John Mayer’s ill-fated relationships. 

In another scene, Wilson serenades her man, belting out the lyrics to a mawkish love anthem while desperately crossing both a man-made lake and a narrow street. 

Pitch Perfect 2 is rescued from comic obscurity by those ingeniously conceived scenes, and also by Wilson, who more often than not, blurts out a witty one-liner to disperse a lot of the film’s dead air. Moreover, Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins reprise their roles as podcasting commentators whose  cluelessness as to how obnoxiously intolerant their snide remarks are comprise a lot of Pitch Perfect 2’s most comical moments.

 

More than laughs

Pitch Perfect 2 is less a breezy experience than its predecessor. Banks, who directs the film with an unfortunate lack of comic urgency, is intent on expanding the role of the Bellas not as just an entertaining caricature of a lot of the competitive singing groups around the world, but also as role models for today’s hip slogans like individuality and self-expression. 

This is why the sequel has its new central character Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), a second-generation Bella who would have been labeled a singer-songwriter by Randy Jackson had she joined American Idol, is bent on humming original songs instead of the staple covers most a capella groups fancy singing.

BECA AND EMILY. Hailee Steinfeld makes her 'Pitch Perfect 2' debut. Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

This is why Beca gets a rude awakening while interning for a recording studio. This is why the rest of the Bellas are struggling to find their voice and identity. 

BECA. Anna Kendrick leads the cast of 'Pitch Perfect 2.' Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

The series’ newfound purpose culminates with a finale that even in its blatant predictability, is quite moving. There is a certain sense to Banks’ leveling the laughs with a more sober impulse. She plays a tricky game of balancing motives, and comes out successful, more or less. – Rappler.com

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. He is also a movie critic for Rappler. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ ‘Tirad Pass.’ Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.