The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Pitch Perfect 2

Some movies, especially comedies, do not lend themselves to sequels. Their stories are self-contained, leaving no logical room to continue once they are over. The Hangover and Horrible Bosses are two great recent examples. Both spawned completely unnecessary sequels that collapsed under the strain of trying to find a reason to exist. Pitch Perfect is another one that didn't seem to have any logical extension point. And, in fact, the first fifteen minutes or so of Pitch Perfect 2 appear to indicate doom. In the opening scene, the Barden Bellas are performing at Lincoln Center. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) is lowered from the ceiling on silks, which she becomes hopelessly entangled in. Her pants split wide open in the process, giving President and Mrs. Obama a full view of her lady-business. It's an inauspicious moment, for her and for the movie itself.

Thankfully, Pitch Perfect 2 rebounds from there, going on to largely avoid such lowbrow contrivances. The Bellas are kicked out of the competition circuit as a result of that botched performance. Under the leadership of Beca (Anna Kendrick) and Chloe (Brittany Snow), they appeal for mercy. The only way they can redeem themselves is to win an international competition that no American team has ever won. This puts them in conflict with a German group known as Das Sound Machine, led by the obnoxious duo of Pieter (Flula Borg) and Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen). The Bellas have a secret weapon, however, in the form of Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld), a new member with a good voice and an original song.

Pitch Perfect 2, like its predecessor, is not necessarily a “good” movie, but it is a fun movie. Looked at purely from a filmmaking perspective, it's kind of a mess. There are way too many plot strands all fighting for time. In addition to the main story, you also get Beca's attempt to cut it as an intern at a production studio; the romances Beca and Emily carry on with the male members of fellow a capella group the Treblemakers; Fat Amy's romance with Bumper (Adam DeVine); the return of Aubrey (Anna Camp); and Emily's attempt to live up to the expectations of her former-Bella mother (Katey Sagal). There's an excess of “stuff” going on here. And, as before, much of the action is interrupted by silliness from the two competition commentators, played by John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (who also directed).

But while it may not be a traditionally good movie, Pitch Perfect 2, like the original, is deeply enjoyable to watch. This is a female-powered movie through and through. It's about women, it was written by a woman (Kay Cannon), and it was directed by a woman. Most of all, it shows women as being intelligent and talented in a way that's celebratory. Instead of hammering home some kind of message, the movie just presents its female characters simply, yet effectively.

The performances add a lot. Anna Kendrick once again makes a funny, perky, utterly relatable lead, while Rebel Wilson earns big laughs as the unpredictable Fat Amy. The chemistry between the ensemble cast is even more noticeable this time. Each of the characters feels a little more lived in by this point, and interactions between them are sharp. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Swedish actress Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, who makes a memorable American debut as the insufferably smug co-leader of Das Sound Machine. She's hilarious.

Of course, the high point of both Pitch Perfect movies is the music. In this sequel, the mash-ups and song choices are even better than they were the first time. One of the best scenes finds the Bellas in an underground competition where they have to sing according to themes such as “Songs About Butts.” (You may not realize how many there are until you hear them all in succession.) There's also sly humor in the way the German team always picks vaguely anarchic tunes to perform, like Muse's “Uprising” and then performs them in uber-thick accents. All the musical numbers are presented with the kind of toe-tapping exuberance that fans of the original have come to expect.

At the end of the day, one goes to these movies for some light comedy and great music. Pitch Perfect 2 delivers on both those counts. For whatever it lacks formally as a film, it wins you over with its joyous, infectious spirit.

( out of four)

Pitch Perfect 2 is rated PG-13 for innuendo and language. The running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.

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