* out of ****
The A Capella themed comedy Pitch Perfect, gained a following in 2012, which slowly grew after it was out of theaters. Despite my appreciation for singing, attractive girls, and things that are supposed to be funny, the movie never clicked with me. It wasn’t terrible, but its sequel, which currently dominates the U.S. box office, is. Pitch Perfect 2, like Oceans Twelve, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, or even D2: The Mighty Ducks is just an unfocused messy continuation of something that kinda’ worked once. If it had a humble beginning, its success allowed it to come back as a product with a brand name from owners who know you’re buying, regardless if it works or not.
Like the first film, the pitch is not perfect. As a comedy, it’s tonally all over the place, unsuccessfully blending down-to-earth character-driven sincerity, with outlandish slapstick. The movie still doesn’t trust its audience with the limits of the human voice, choosing to dynamically mix the character’s performances to the point of sounding as phony as the pop-crap they’re covering. The joke writing is even cheaper this time and the funniest performances are from comedians and celebrities in small supporting roles. To its ultimate detriment, this sequel is over-stuffed with subplots, giving it a pretty rocky sense of passage.
Academy Award nominee Hailee Steinfeld joins the cast as a freshman and legacy pledge for the Barden Bellas (the singing group in these movies) -and is most likely pledging to be the lead in another sequel when Anna Kendrick naturally moves on. Kendrick is still that college girl with big dreams, a great voice, and a passion for music production - but whenever she's given something funny to say, the delivery is a little off. Rebel Wilson, as Fat Amy, is still trying to thrive from being an awkward overweight girl, who is immune to embarrassment. Maybe that schtick will get interesting if she does a John Waters film. Brittany Snow is still the only cast member who seems to possess good comic timing, but her character has so little to do.
The continued improvisational exchanges between John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks as competition commentators - barely captures the Christopher Guest vibe they're trying to imitate -and feels like another tonal deviation to these confused comedies.Banks - an actress I like very much - was behind this sequel in her directorial debut while co-producing. I was very hopeful that she might elevate the material, but there's no real signature to her work here, aside from the various comedic cameos, who are undoubtedly her friends from all the years in the business. The movie is so conventional, I can't tell if Banks is a hopeful director for the future, but she took on a big responsibility with this lousy screenplay.
I guess you don’t need me to tell you any of this. Chances are, if you wanted to see it, you’ve already seen it -or will see it in the form of a bonding experience with friends. The level of this movie’s quality will be about as noticeable as an appetizer platter at Applebee's when everyone is laughing, munching and chatting. Just don't be surprised if you go to bed that night feeling mysteriously terrible after a "good time."