‘Pitch Perfect 2’ hits all the right notes

by Joe Jarosz on May 15, 2015

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

Sometimes, you have to go to the movies to get away from everything. You open the newspaper — the few of you who still read the paper — or turn on the news and see depressing story after depressing story. When that happens, you don’t want to see something serious. No, you need something fun. Something that will clear your mind for 90 minutes and allow you the opportunity to relax and do what the movies were made to do…take you away from your troubles.

Pitch Perfect 2 is that kind of movie. It knows it’s not going to win any awards, it’s just there to entertain. It’s there for you to unabashedly tap your foot to the beat, sing along with each a capella performance and applaud after each song, even though it’s a movie and not a live performance. If you couldn’t tell already, I had fun at Pitch Perfect 2. I walked out of the theater still singing the songs and had a huge grin on my face at the final performance, which included a gigantic no-no in a capella: an original song.

It’s been three years since we’ve last seen the Barden Bellas, the all female a capella group. Beca (Anna Kendrick) is now head of the group, sharing the reigns with Chloe (Brittany Snow). Chloe was a senior in the first movie, and is still hanging around because the Bellas are safe and doesn’t know what life post-college will be like. The core group returns, including more screen time and character depth for Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson).

The film opens with the Bellas performing for President Obama. But, oh no, the performance goes awry when Fat Amy, while hanging high above the stage from a swing, splits her pants, ultimately mooning the president. Because of the snafu, the group is banned from recruiting and performing in the Aca-Circuit. To clear their name, they vow to win an international a cappella competition — because sequels have to go international. The only problem, no American team has ever won the competition. So, you know, the odds are stacked against them.

The Bellas need a villain, or what can best be perceived to be as a villain in an a capella movie. The evil international group are the Germans, with the the perfectly punned name of Das Sound Machine. Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and Flula Borg are so over the top as Kommissar and Pieter, respectively, that it’s hard to root against them. Even Beca has trouble disliking them. The German actors wear nothing but black mesh tops, expertly perform the robot and emphasize the zee — singing songs like Insane in Zee Membrane or Zis is How Ve Do It. As a guy, I preferred their interpretations of rock songs by the bands Muse and Fall Out Boy over the Bellas pop mash-ups.

For the size of the cast, none of the characters seem to get lost in everything that’s going on. Hana Mae Lee is still creeping everyone out as Lilly, the group’s quietest singer. Adam DeVine’s Bumper thinks he’s still part of the Treble Makers (the male counterpart to the Bellas). The relationship between Bumper and Fat Amy, which was teased in the first film, gets more attention in the sequel to the audience’s delight. I’d like to see a comedy with Wilson and DeVine in the lead roles because their chemistry makes it look like they’re not even trying. Then there’s the sole, new member, Emily (Hailee Steinfeld). She was able to join via a loophole; the Bellas didn’t recruit her because she was a legacy, so she’s automatically added to the group. As the new member, Emily also plays the role Beca did in the first film, as the group’s voice of reason and fresh air when they have trouble finding their voice.

With as many characters as a superhero movie — and not to mention all the celebrity cameos such as David Cross as an eccentric a capella fan, Keegan-Michael Kay as Beca’s crazy boss and Green Bay Packer linebacker and a capella superfan Clay Matthews — it would’ve been easy for the director to lose focus. But Elizabeth Banks, who pulls double duty as both director and returns as commentator Gail, manages to keep everything held together in perfect comedic harmony.

Pitch Perfect 2 is goofy, yet sweet. It might not be as catchy as the first, but still provides many opportunities for audiences to tap their feet to the beat and leave the theater signing. What is offkey about the movie, ultimately doesn’t matter because like I said, sometimes you need to watch a movie because you need to get away. And you definitely get caught up in the music here.

Joe Jarosz is a Midwest boy now living in California.

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