The Bock’s Office: ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ a satisfying but cyclical sing-quel
Music and comedy go together well when they both work, but it can be tricky to stay original. And, while “Pitch Perfect 2” has both these elements in abundance, it’s hard not to consider it as being on a loop.
If you go…
“Pitch Perfect 2,” rated PG-13
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 115 minutes
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld and Rebel Wilson
The Barden Bellas are the stars of the college a cappella singing scene, but the ensemble has fallen on hard times after a disastrous performance that is not only embarrassing, but also results in their banishment from the stage.
The head of the Bellas, Chloe (Brittany Snow), can’t imagine a life in which she’s not singing and determines that competing and winning in the world championships is the group’s surest way back into the good graces of their fans. However, second-in-command Beca (Anna Kendrick) sees this as an opportunity to get back to reality again, which for her means graduation and taking on an internship at a record label.
While she’s living a double life, the rest of her friends are focusing their energy into the vocal performance of a lifetime, though with a German troupe of singers known as Das Sound Machine ready to conquer anyone who gets in their way, their harmony will have to be nothing short of flawless.
The dynamic Kendrick and Snow have between them is an understated comic chemistry in portraying Beca, a born leader but always too cool for school with one foot out the door, and Chloe, a disturbingly driven Type A personality who could probably run the planet if she had her mind on absolutely anything else.
Like John Belushi in “Animal House,” seven years in college is only a waste if you did nothing important, so the merit of a cappella may be subjective.
As expected, Rebel Wilson steals the show again as the boisterous Fat Amy, who gets the Bellas in their current predicament with an incident that involves the “down under” area of the Aussie actress.
Haillee Steinfeld is a pleasant addition to the bunch as a legacy Bella allowed to join purely by technicality, and her proclivity for writing her own songs raises eyebrows among her fellow singers. After all, brand-new tunes are anathema in the world of cover-only a cappella.
If you think this crew takes things too seriously, count on the bizarre Euro-trash coupling of Flula Borg and Birgitte Hjort Sørenson to make everything that much weirder as the Naziesque leaders of Das Sound Machine. Elsewhere, expect plenty of punchy laughs from John Michael H
+-iggins and Elizabeth Banks as the snarky commentators and podcasters of the music world who have entirely too much power.
Banks makes her feature-length debut as director for this sequel, hitting all the right notes in terms of comedy by letting the group of young ladies do what they do best, whether it’s Wilson’s loudmouth bravado or Hana Mae Lee as the undeniable oddball, Lilly, who may sing magnificently, but you don’t want to hear most of the other stuff that comes out of her mouth.
And, at the volume she speaks, you can’t, anyway.
As with any larger follow-up to a movie that took audiences by surprise, the cameos are bountiful and delightfully unexpected — especially if you’re a Cheesehead — while the tunes go almost out of control.
Everything that was great about the first film is there, yet that’s kind of the problem. Like a hot band’s second album, the difficulty is finding a new direction to go instead of doing the same thing on a greater scale for people who already know what to expect.
“Pitch Perfect 2” is fun, to be sure, and certainly it’s music to your ears if you loved its predecessor. For those who weren’t wowed the first time or just don’t get the appeal of a cappella — Holy a ca-mole! — these fine performances will fall on deaf ears.
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