Continuing with this edition of Catching Up with The Anticipated is Pitch Perfect 2. The first film was a surprise hit (well, surprising to most), but can the sequel recapture the magic of the original, or is it an acadisaster? Let’s do an acaexploration to find out.
Spoilers Ahead (Probably)
Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15th, 2015)
How was it?
It is so much fun, but also so not a movie. The first Pitch Perfect isn’t necessarily a masterpiece, but it has a rather competent script, great music, and a great cast that helps tell a compelling story. Unfortunately, Pitch Perfect 2 is not able to do the same. That doesn’t make it a bad movie, but it is a really, really messy one that skates far too much on its likable cast and fun concept. When people are singing so much in a movie it’s hard not to have a good time, but unlike other musicals, in which it’s okay if the non-singing parts are a bit thin because the music is also telling a story, Pitch Perfect only uses its songs for flair and performance, so it needs the non-singing to stand up on its own. This works in the first film, but not so much in the second. There are some songs that seem to flow out of the narrative, but most of them seem like random music videos barely tied together. This creates a whiplash effect, where most of the individual parts of the movie work well, or are at least a lot of fun, but as you begin viewing the film as a whole, things really start to fall apart.
Part of the problem with the movie is that it is not sure who its main character is. This is mainly due to the fact that the film is trying to both honor the present and set up the future. Universal clearly knew it had franchise potential with Pitch Perfect, but also knew that it would grow increasingly expensive to bring back its main stars, and even then, eventually the stars would want to move on. So the script wanted to set up for the future by introducing Hailee Steinfield’s character, Emily, who would take over as the lead of the franchise once Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and the rest of the main cast moved on. The film reinforces this with all of the Bellas being seniors other than Emily, thus priming them to move on if a third film happens. This all sounds great, but Anna Kendrick’s character Becca is still there, and, well, still the main character of these movies. The film does what it can to split the proper amount of time between Becca and Emily, but is never entirely successful. Plus, it doesn’t help that, while Steinfield does a good job, Emily is simply not as good a character as Becca is. So the constant comparison between the two is not helpful.
There is still a lot to like in this movie. The bigger budget allows for even more impressive song performances and the addition of new, great vocal performers, and the script still has a lot of the same spirit as the first film. The movie overall is very uneven, but the moments it works are still fantastic. The riff-off is a lot of fun, and the final song of the movie is moving and heartwarming. Add in villains that work rather well despite the fact that their material is rather subpar, and the movie has a lot going for it.
Isn’t this based on…?
Well, the first one was more or less an original idea, so take that for what it is worth.
Did it warrant its selection on The Anticipated?
Yes, despite the film’s unevenness, it is still a monumental success. Pitch Perfect 2 more than sextupled its production budget, and established itself as a highly franchisable property. This is great news for a film that not only places actresses firmly in the lead, but also boasted Elizabeth Banks’s directorial debut and a female screenwriter in Kay Cannon. The film was even more of a financial success than anyone had expected, and proved once again that audiences are craving quality female-fronted films. So even if the film was fraying at the edges, it represents progress for women in Hollywood that cannot be discounted. Plus, it is another one of the films that have helped Universal have one of the most successful release years for a studio ever.
Would I recommend it to others?
Well, seeing as this is a sequel, it comes with a bit of disclaimer in that, if you didn’t like the first film, you are likely not going to like the second film. But if you either liked the first film or are just a fan of musical movies, then it is still worth watching. Seeing it in a theatre is definitely worth it if you still have a chance, but it also holds up quite well as a rental, as the smaller screen lets you see more of the subtler things that happen in both this movie and the original.
How does this film measure up in a post Mad Max: Fury Road world?
This film came out the same weekend as Mad Max: Fury Road, so I’m not sure this is really applicable. With that said, it would have been nice if Pitch Perfect 2 had followed the rebirthing model of Mad Max than the retread model of almost all other Hollywood sequels.
How would I rate it?
On our handy dandy made-up anticipation meter, Pitch Perfect 2 would rate 7 mad beats out of 10, because, while its quality is not what I would have hoped, it is fun, it successfully launches a franchise, and involves strong female leads, a female director, and a female screenwriter.
For an actual rating: This film is a bit lost. It is not sure how to handle its co-lead structure between Becca and Emily, not to mention the necessary time needed to be given to Fat Amy. This makes it hard for the film to tell compelling stories, or give the proper amount of character work to anyone, other than maybe Emily. Plus, Banks is uneven in her directorial debut, and the film is just not really a movie. Instead, it’s just a bunch of songs connected by thin narrative tissue. Still, this film is so much fun, the music is great, and Anna Kendrick makes the most of what she is given. Also, Hailee Steinfield seems to have found a franchise that can utilize her talents, which may help her get to the star level she deserves to be at. Add in my great love for acapella music, and I would still give it 3 out 4 stars, because it does just enough well to make it a good movie–just not a great one.
That’s it for this edition of The Anticipated. Next up, we take to the realm of sci-fi with Tomorrowland. This film ranked near the top of this year’s list, and looked like it would be something special. Did it deliver on this promise, or was it another sci-fi disappointment? Find out the answer on the next The Anticipated.
Will David Be Watching Crimson Peak?
Err, not enough time to think about this, but it feels like things are trending towards yes.