Pitch Perfect 2 - Cinema Review

'With heightened budget and expectations, the film feels as though it has to go for the bigger numbers. It's a mistake'

For a film that was very funny at times, Pitch Perfect didn't half seem to go out of its way to include things apparently designed to make you dislike it. Jokes with racial overtones, vomit gags, jokes with homophobic overtones; somehow, amongst a lot of charm, there's a slightly nasty edge to it.

Which makes it a little disheartening that Pitch Perfect 2 starts with yet another completely unwarranted Jewish joke, the first of the film, delivered by announcer John (John Michael Higgins), who here goes from intentionally hilarious misogynist racist to simply misogynist racist. Meanwhile, the vomit gag gets replaced by Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) flashing a cameoing President Obama, so swings and roundabouts, and we're off: the Barden Bellas in disgrace once again.

Past mistakes somewhat repeated to a degree, there are also a great deal of smarts shown by this sequel, with producer/supporting actor Elizabeth Banks stepping into directing duties. Aubrey (Anna Camp), one of the weaker parts of the first film, is gone from the Bellas and there's a new sub-plot for Becca (Anna Kendrick), which not only gives the character some conflict to overcome outside of the group but also provides a break from the a capella comedy in the shape of Keegan-Michael Key (of Key and Peele fame), as a hilariously scabrous music producer. His hipster joke might be one of the better ones this year.

There's other good stuff too. Near-psychopathic Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), one of the highlights of the first film, continues to steal scenes, with two in particular from a 'team building retreat' the girls go to proving particularly effective. Benji (Ben Platt) gets an attractively awkward love arc with new arrival Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), the slightly boring Becca/Jesse (Skylar Astin) relationship is pushed to the background and Fat Amy and Bumper (Adam DeVine) continue their odd dynamic.

With heightened budget and expectations though, the film feels as though it has to go for the bigger numbers. It's a mistake, particularly in a narrative which sees the Bellas realise that they're better when they just focus on the vocals. With the exception of the final performance (which is gloriously sentimental), everything here that's too showy doesn't work as well as the harmonisation of the first film. Take the simple a capella battle of Pitch Perfect, for example, and put it against the same section here, which happens at a big, busy party with a terrible set of cameos. Like any mainstream Comedy these days, those very cameos have been turned up to eleven, with little genuine effect and the product placement and production have grotesquely increased to match. Listen to the soundtracks (and I currently am) and there's no comparison: the first's minimalism wins hands down.

Meanwhile, not quite content with the suspect racial and sexual politics of the first film there's a new character here, Flo (Chrissie Fit), apparently included only to make jokes about South American immigrants. She literally has nothing else to do. Two steps forwards and one step back. Maybe by the time the third film rolls around, with an inevitable 'the band must reform to help the member in need' narrative, they'll have worked out the rest of the holes.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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