Film Review: Pitch Perfect 2

Well, what can I say… I loved it. The sequel to 2012’s Pitch Perfect has split opinion here at SFS HQ. Some say they didn’t enjoy it as much as the original, a view I’ve heard echoed by some of our members. ‘It’s too predictable’ has been a common complaint. And yes, it is predictable. Like any teen dance (or cheerleading, or figure skating… Yes, I’ve seen them all) it follows a tried and tested formula. It’s not as original or surprising, but it’s all a lot slicker and it plays to its strengths throughout.

The Bellas on stage in Pitch Perfect 2

The Bellas on stage in Pitch Perfect 2

PP2 takes all the bits we loved from the first film and distills them into 115 minutes of ‘best bits’. The ‘Riff Off’ is back, but bigger and better. The commentators are back, but with more screen time and jokes that cut so close to the bone that you gasp before checking it’s OK to laugh. The Treble Makers are back, but transformed into even more arrogant, supposedly unbeatable, European Champion A Cappella troupe Das Sound Machine. (I should point out that the actual Treble Makers are also back, but this time in the guise of supporters rather than contenders to The Bellas).

I think Das Sound Machine, character wise, are great. They wear black leather, all the time. They walk around in formation, all the time. Opposite to the Bellas, who have two running gag silent/absent characters who hardly make an appearance, Das Sound Machine have tons of them. In fact, there are really only two real Das Sound Machiners, flanked by lots of silent leather-clad extras that don’t really do very much other than stand in formation, like twenty Tracys from Eastenders. Occasionally they roll around on stage in bass-driven Big Production Numbers. It’s all great fun.

Das Sound Machine, the unbeatable European Champions of Acapella, in their trademark black leather costumes. Flula Borg (left) is a German YouTube star cast especially for the part.

Das Sound Machine, the unbeatable European Champions of A Capella, in their trademark black leather costumes. Flula Borg (left) was cast especially for the part based on his YouTube success.

Much like the first film, this one centres around the idea of ‘finding yourself’, only in this case, it’s about finding your sound. Deep. After a few years of unprecedented success, the Bellas have lost their way. They’re relying on spectacle over sound, which leads to one or a few hilarious disasters. There are some set pieces that top the original’s projectile puking party. Again, it’s all great good natured fun.

The Bellas sing onstage at the finals of the International Championships

The Bellas sing onstage at the finals of the International Championships, a competition that the USA have never previously won

But then the magic happens. They re-discover their sound and go on to win and be brilliant. Yes, it’s predictable, but it’s not what they do that we care about, it’s how they do it. We all know to expect a happy ending and here, the music seems to have stepped up a level too. We’re championing the Bellas to triumph over adversity (through song of course) and they don’t disappoint, showing us a routine that takes it right back to the start and celebrates all we love about the girls.

And it is quite a female centric film. Making a departure from some of the romance we saw in the first film, it definitely feels like PP2 is all about the Bellas. The film pokes fun at a whole world of casual misogyny faced by the girls, commentator John has some outrageous one-liners, “Let’s hear it for the girls too ugly to be cheerleaders!” being just one example of many. The story is also more of an ensemble effort, not so reliant on just Beca, but focusing more on their friendships and who they are as a group. This also means more from Rebel Wilson, who plays Fat Amy, which as the film demonstrates, can never be a bad thing.

Throughout the film, there is more music, especially from the A Cappella world. 58 different songs were cleared for production rights. It’s generally a lot more modern and sounds a lot more produced, no doubt with a commercially available soundtrack in mind. We also get a visit to a recording studio where Beca is interning. I won’t spoil the cameo, but this is the wry sense of humour we loved in PP1 exploited to full potential. And the Christmas album? I only hope it materializes in real life.

Overall, it’s a good-natured film that had me in stitches several times. The cast is talented in both the comedy and musical stakes, and it feels that everyone is in on the joke. If the first one was a little bit raw and unplugged, this one has been through the studio to emerge as super slick and playing to each and every one of its strengths.

About donnabamford

Director at Studio Film School. Views are all my own, etc etc, nobody else would entertain them.
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