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Review: Pitch Perfect 2

(L-r) Ester Dean, Shelley Regner, Kelley Alice Jakle, Hailee Steinfeld, Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Alexis Knapp, Rebel Wilson and Hana Mae Lee star in Universal Pictures' "Pitch Perfect 2"

Good sequels can be hard to come by. Too often filmmakers essentially reproduce the first film, or deviate too far from what audiences initially fell in love with; the balance between maintaining the essence of the first film with creating newness is difficult. As a huge fan of 2012’s Pitch Perfect, I am happy to report that Pitch Perfect 2 is one of those rare sequels that satisfies fans. While there are plenty of significant similarities between the two films, Pitch Perfect 2 does not simply regurgitate the first film.

The plot of Pitch Perfect 2 mirrors that of the first film. It begins with the Barden Bellas singing their hearts out for President Obama, for his birthday, at the Kennedy Center. Though a voiceover from the returned acapella commentators (Elizabeth Banks, who also directed the film, and John Michael Higgins) we learn that the Bellas have been riding their winning streak since the end of the last film. They have now won three national championships and their fame has brought them to the level of performing for Obama’s birthday. What is easily the biggest performance of their careers suddenly comes to a crashing halt when Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) has a major wardrobe malfunction while suspended above the crowd. The montage of media backlash that follows establishes that everyone saw what Fat Amy was flashing and the country collectively now despises the Bellas. Luckily, we are used to seeing these ladies as underdogs.

The first Pitch Perfect started with the Bellas in a low position after a performance mishap. We saw them climb out of their metaphorical gutter and form together as a team of women, beating all of the odds. In Pitch Perfect 2 we get to see them do the same again. Americans love rooting for the underdog, and Fat Amy’s blunder brought them back to the seat that feels more comfortable for the audience.
Pitch Perfect 2 also continues to bring the things we expect from the first film. The musical numbers are over the top and well performed. Even when these ladies are on the losing end of a sing-off the process is so euphoric we all feel like we won. The movie is damn funny. The one-liners, especially from whispering Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) left the audience I was a part of laughing out loud. There are plenty of simultaneously surprising and appropriate cameos. But most importantly the film does justice to female relationships.

Even through the satirical veil of the film, the friendships and romantic relationships ring true. Beca (Anna Kendrick) and Jesse (Skylar Astin) are still together in this film, and this relationship is never the source of strife or conflict. They love and support one another and leave the competition on the stage. It is difficult to remember a film that featured an honestly healthy romantic relationship, which makes Jesse and Beca’s that much more refreshing. And though there is a touch of tension between Beca and Chloe (Brittany Snow) in the plot, it has much more to do with their personal insecurities than their friendship. Seeing many strong female friendships is an anomaly in film, but here Pitch Perfect 2 leads by example.

The one criticism of the film is the treatment of minorities. While woman and female relationships are treated with the highest regard, the central characters are all white. This means the only times we hear from the background, more racially diverse, characters is with one of those funny but often stereotypical one liners. These lines are some of the best in the film, but in the end it is a little concerning that none of these characters get any emotional development past these punchlines.

Even with this misstep, Pitch Perfect 2 surpassed every expectation I had for it. The audience I sat with spontaneously applauded several times during the film because it was so damn funny and uplifting. The film ended with a hinting at another sequel, and if they are able to keep the same level of humor, music, and progressive relationships I will gladly keep seeing these films.

Rating: PG-13

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Cast:
Anna Kendrick
Rebel Wilson
Hailee Steinfeld
Brittany Snow
Skylar Astin
Adam DeVine
Katey Sagal
Anna Camp
Ben Platt
Alexis Knapp
Hana Mae Lee
John Hodgman
Jason Jones
Joe Lo Truglio
Reggie Watts
John Michael Higgins
Elizabeth Banks

Film Length: 115 minutes

Release Date: May 15, 2015

Distributor: Universal Pictures

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