Friday, May 15, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2

2.5/4

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Stanfield, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins

Rated PG-13 for Innuendo and Language

The problem with sequels, especially in the comedy genre, is that movies play all their cards by the time the end credits roll.  These days, movies exist with pre-planned franchises which is meant to eliminate the problem, but "Pitch Perfect" was a sleeper hit.  It made a huge profit, so a sequel was inevitable.  Unfortunately, the sequel feels more obligatory than anything, and lacks the irreverence and energy that made the first one so much fun.

After winning Nationals, the Barden Bellas are touring the country.  During their performance at Lincoln Center (in front of President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama), Fat Amy (Wilson) suffers from a wardrobe malfunction of the worst kind.  Now banned from competing or recruiting new members, their only hope is to win the World Championship, where they face stiff competition from Das Sound Machine, the German team.

In addition to lacking teeth, the film is poorly focused.  The first film had one character, Beca (Kendrick) at its center.  While other characters were definitely present, she was the film's anchor.  This time around, there are three central characters: Beca, Fat Amy, and the "legacy," Emily (Stanfield).  Having three central characters while developing them all enough to where they are still interesting requires a defter touch than Elizabeth Banks, making her feature-length directorial debut, possesses.  Their stories feel like filler, and the fact that Fat Amy's and Emily's storylines are romantic in nature doesn't help the situation.

The cast looks tired.  Anna Kendrick is as appealing as ever, but the script doesn't give her much to work with.  In the first film, Beca blocked everything out because she was dead-set on not liking college so her dad could pay for her to become a DJ in LA.  Here, she's keeping her internship with a music producer (Keegan-Michael Key) secret from the Bellas, especially the always neurotic Chloe (Snow).  Rebel Wilson, who walked away with the entire movie, seems strangely muzzled.  She doesn't really do anything that funny.  And Hailee Stanfield is cute, but doesn't stand out very much.  Of the cast, the only one who bears a mention is Birgitte Hjort Sorenson, who plays the leader of DSM.  The German team isn't very intimidating as a whole, but she is.

The film as a whole feels uninspired.  There's no edge or spontaneity.  Whatever happened to someone upchucking half their body weight onto the stage?  Or what about Fat Amy suddenly belting out a solo and acting totally against the choreography?

It's not that "Pitch Perfect 2" isn't amusing.  It's consistently funny, but the jokes are far too spaced out, and even when they work, they're retreads of the stuff in the first film.

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