Monday, June 1, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2

More of the same, 
though that’s a pretty good thing

     Pitch Perfect (2012) came out of nowhere and did well at the box office, I didn’t realize its eminence until the residential staff played it for our students in the summer of 2013 and they were reciting the dialogue and singing along with the characters,.  I thought it a cute movie musical that was able to sincerely present college a cappella groups, while also commenting sarcastically on the proceedings through the Greek Chorus/TV personalities played by producer Elizabeth Banks and veteran improv player John Michael Higgins, both of whom are highly experienced in musical performance as well.  Rebel Wilson was a breakout star as Fat Amy and there was a hit song “Cups,” performed by star Anna Kendrick.  Competition, female friendship, and the acceptance of many types of people were more important than romance, which was refreshing.

Wilson Working on Muffgate
     Elizabeth Banks returned to direct Pitch Perfect 2, which was a smart move, with a script by Kay Cannon, who wrote the original.  Most of the original cast returned.  The sequel follows the plotting of the first movie, except this time the Barden University Bellas have to atone for “Muffgate,” which occurs at the beginning, and try to compete internationally.  Unfortunately, the characters haven’t grown emotionally in the intervening three years.  Kendrick’s Beca still doesn’t trust others to help her, Wilson’s Fat Amy still displays a confidence not entirely justified by her talent, though it’s funny, and Brittany Snow’s Chloe has remained in college for seven years because she’s afraid to leave.  This last detail is very telling because it reflects more college students than the general public would believe.

Ester Dean
     Although it’s about girl power, even using Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” to hammer home the message, the Bellas aren’t as egalitarian as they’d like to believe.  Ester Dean has played Cynthia-Rose in both movies and basically she’s used as a one-note gag, though it’s original, as the lesbian gambling addict.  She’s given little screen time, but she displays a powerful, growling mezzo on the soundtrack.  She and Kendrick have the best voices.  I could have done with more of Dean and less of Wilson, whose ribald passive-aggression never develops.  Snow and Anna Camp are stuck in one-note, three scene parts this time around and Skylar Astin, who has an easy-going, self-aware nerdy style, has even less to do as Beca’s love interest.  Of course, this is how female love interests are treated in the other 90% of Hollywood blockbusters so I suppose the creators thought turn about was fair play. Two of the Bellas still have no discernible personalities and Amy even comments that she doesn’t know the difference between them – the audience doesn’t either.  On the other hand, the Bellas are extremely forgiving; no one ever holds Amy accountable for her ribald stupidity at the beginning.

Higgins and Banks
     Banks and Higgins provide comic leavening again.  Banks has been able to maintain the honest/snarky tone, which is not an easy thing to do as a director.  She’s also kept the series running very well, thereby setting up a potential third entry.   Hailee Steinfeld charms as the new legacy addition to the Bellas, and it was good to see Katey Sagal as her mother.  I wish the single “Flashlight” didn’t resort to the currently used, but grammatically wrong, ‘… you and I’ instead of the correct ‘… you and me’ in the lyrics.  Ugh!

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