Friday, May 15, 2015

The Pitch Is On Again

Hey, Hollywood! Wanna know how to rock the s--- outta a follow-up movie?

Ask Elizabeth Banks.

The actress-cum-helmer has popped her cherry as a director with the just-as-good-as-the-original-if-not-better Pitch Perfect 2, a, trust, more than serviceable – and completely welcome – sequel that will surely leave ya wanting more (which we might...eventually).

This second part in the world’s most surprising franchise centers once again on the Barden Bellas, a ragtag group of college a capella singers led by the extraordinary Anna Kendrick’s wildly talented Beca. (Pitch Perfect, the Banks-produced-and-co-starring affair that started it all, came out somewhat rather quietly back in the fall of 2012, finding critical acclaim and sleeper success at the box office and going on to become a worldwide cult hit.) The Bellas are three years deep into an unprecedented winning streak: Everything they touch turns to gold; and theyre so hot and It, indeed, that they like, receive and invitation to sing for the freakin’ president (of the country, not their university).

You know what they say, though, right? They higher you climb, the longer you fall, or som’in’ like that?

Of course something would derail ’em, and that something is an unfortunate incident involving Rebel Wilson’s stunningly confident Fat Amy, an air-acrobatics stunt at Lincoln Center gone awry, and the rip of a bodysuit seen ’round the world.

Oh the aca-horror!

Disgraced on a planetary level, the Bellas are banned from recruiting new members and making official appearances as punishment for embarrassing their community. In other words, it’s dead Bellas walkin’.

Leave it to Brittany Snow’s Chloe (she of the most glorious red hair committed to the screen in recent memory and the group’s new commanding officer) to find a loophole. Given that the Bellas are America’s reigning champs, they automatically enter this massive international competition in Denmark were they’ll face a great many teams, chief among them Das Sound Machine, an undisputed juggernaut from Germany led by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and the incredibly named YouTube star Flula Borg. If they win (and that’s a big if, since Das Sound Machine are das best), their privileges will be reinstated. Pitch Perfect 2, in all of its earned important-ness, explores whether the Bellas can pick themselves outta the profound hole they’ve fallen into and reclaim their rightful place in the spotlight...whether they can find their sound again.

More importantly, in all of its accomplished fun, the movie brings Beca & Co. full circle. We see Beca, for one, worry about what’s next post-college and post-Bellas. And I do mean worry. She reluctantly joined the group in the first offering and discovered that it was a worthwhile proposition. Now, with the real world looming, she is concerned that she has peaked and is feeling the pressure to make sure that’s not the case. Banks, working from a script by returning scribe Kay Cannon, nurtures this inescapable growing pain – and the other girls, all of whom see a further development of their characters this time out – as expertly as she handles the movie’s showiest moments.

While Pitch Perfect 2 leans in closely on the story-and-highlight structure of its predecessor, it doesn’t rest lazily on its laurels, Hangover Part II-style. Definitely, we kinda know what to expect now, but the powers that be expand on things by introducing new chicks into the mix, such as Hailee Steinfeld’s freshman-character, a Bella legacy that surely will play a role in the franchise’s own; court Oscar with the inclusion of Flashlight, a “Titanium”-esque original song meant to crowd-please that was co-written by none other than Sia and Sam Smith; and re-invent the riff-off and try to outdo the first movie’s Cups” moment in yet another instance of why these girls really do rule the world (and I don’t mean just the world of a capella productions).

It is all pretty pitchin’ perfect, if you ask me. Even with its once-edgy jokes that sound tired (i.e., repetitive or, worse, not as sharp) the second time out. (Yo, guys...maybe, don’t rely on racial humor all that much in the inevitable Pitch Perfect 3? Because the room’s not feelin’ that all that much these days....)

My Rating ***1/2


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