'Blu-ray or Bust'
PITCH PERFECT 2 (PG-13, 2015, 115 minutes, UNIVERSAL)
The Barden Bellas are back. And as much as I adore Elizabeth Banks and Anna Kendrick, part of me wishes they weren’t.
It isn’t that the performances are bad; the always reliable Kendrick (50/50, and the TWILIGHT films, which I forgive her for, because she’s so damn cute) returns as “Beca”, as do the rest of the misfit toys that make up the group. These misfits include the gorgeous Alexis Knapp (COUPLES RETREAT, PROJECT X), Brittany Snow (HAIRSPRAY, JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE), and the usually hilarious Rebel Wilson (BRIDESMAIDS, PAIN AND GAIN), who plays “Fat Amy”. The biggest problems lie with the addition of Hailee Steinfeld, whose character “Emily” is just downright annoying at times.
This is by no means the worst sequel ever made; Banks is a reliable director, and the cast works well with what they have to work with—which is a script that, at times, feels contrived and too well plotted. The charm of the first movie was that it was surprisingly funny, and did not adhere to the typical Hollywood formula. This time around, some of the scenes run too long, and some of the jokes seem too forced.
There are several moments that are quite funny. Most of those involve Banks and veteran comedic actor John Michael Higgins (“Arrested Development”, “Wilfred”), who return as competition announcers Gail and John. Much of their back-and-forth sounds improvised, which makes it that much better. Everyone else in the film appears restrained by the script, but these two look like they are having the most fun.
The plot of the film is such: the Bellas are humiliated during a birthday performance for the President when Fat Amy’s pants split from the back to the front, spilling out her lady-parts. To regain their reputation and to be admitted back into the school a capella program, the ladies enter the World Championship, and their rivals this time are a daunting German group called “Das Sound Machine”. The Germans are all about production, so the Bellas have to step up their game, regain their confidence, and find their group voice to overcome the dastardly good…yeah, okay, that totally sounds like a frigging Disney movie or After School Special. But that’s exactly how parts of this movie feel.
And Steinfeld… if her character had only one quirky trait, it would have been a more honest performance. But to go from giddily psychotic one minute to mousy and demure the next totally belies the possible capabilities of this talented actress. Her performance in TRUE GRIT was phenomenal for her age, and her inclusion in this film feels more like a payday than it does an interest in the material.
Thank goodness Keegan-Michael Key as an abrasive record producer is on hand to steal every single scene he appears. The absence of Fat Amy’s humor is obvious, and Banks couldn’t have picked anyone better than Key to pick up the slack.
The special features include several extended music performances; quite frankly, I was worn out of the a capella bit by the time Amy is rowing a boat across a lake and singing solo to her boy-toy. The gag reel is underwhelming—even some of the mess ups appear forced. I’m sure everyone had a blast filming it, but that feeling did not come across in the finished product. The musical premise of this film necessitates that you get this on Blu-ray. No, there are no special effects to feast your eyes on, but your ears will appreciate the effort. The groups cover several different genres, and it sounds better in digital surround
If you are a big fan of the first film, do yourself a favor and stay away from this one. It doesn’t seem so much re-hashed as it does overdone. And in case you were worried, PITCH PERFECT 3 is already in pre-production. Just don’t expect me to review it… I’ll be busy… watching HUNGER GAMES or pulling my teeth out or something…
Film Grade: C
Special Features: DBlu-ray Necessary: If you like the music, yes. If you don’t like the music, why the hell are you reading this review anyway?