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SALT LAKE CITY — The a cappella Barden Bellas from “Pitch Perfect” are returning to theaters this weekend.
Led this time by a slightly less moody Beca (Anna Kendrick), the girls embark on a journey of self-discovery as they prepare to sing their way to the top of their biggest acca-challenge yet — becoming world champions.
No, no, this is not the plot of some after-school Disney Channel teen-com. Well, maybe it is. In fact, it probably is. But even if it is, “Pitch Perfect” fans aren’t lining up to see the sing-team compete for an Oscar. Instead, Pitch fans are paying for great covers, Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), and a smile on their face from beginning to end. And on that note, “Perfect 2” will absolutely deliver.
For non-Pitch fans however, the musical melodrama is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s shallow, and yes, vapid, but it’s also charming and occasionally funny, which makes it a pretty safe first date. But for those still on the fence, let’s go ahead and break the film down.
As far as movies go, the original “Pitch Perfect” is a better movie. But to be fair, nothing about this sequel suggests it’s trying to one-up its predecessor. In fact, there are several moments throughout the film that seem to wink at the audience as the Bellas try to outperform what made them great in the first place. This is a movie that embraces its sequel-status, and in a really clever and strangely authentic way, is better than it should be as it embraces its flashy, capitalizing ways.
Is it funny?
Writers Kay Cannon and Mickey Rapkin ramped up the joke-to-story ratio by a significant margin, ultimately making “Pitch 2” a much funnier but less memorable movie than the 2012 original. Sure, there are moments where the jokes fall flat, but Cannon and Rapkin know you’re walking into a movie you already know the ending to, so making the journey as fun as possible is a strategy that audiences will thank them for in the end.
Unlike part 1, “Pitch 2” interrupts its musical numbers quite a bit. Sometimes for laughs, sometimes to progress the story, but often, it just feels like Canon, Rapkin or Banks aren’t confident audiences want to sit through another 3-minute song and dance. I could be wrong, but regardless, it seems like a strange element to be timid with considering people are paying to see a story about a cappella singers.
To be clear though, this is still a movie with a lot of fun, energy-fueled covers that you’ll hum as you walk out the doors. Just be prepared for the shorter, fun-size versions.
This is the first feature-film Elizabeth Banks is tackling from behind the camera, and she definitely gets a gold star for her opening outing as a director. Again, this isn’t a movie swinging for awards season, but Banks more than proves she can time a joke or pace an emotion-laced scene. With her schedule still peppered with acting gigs, there’s no evidence to suggest she’s looking to change careers soon, but I’d definitely be interested in seeing another Banks-driven comedy in the future.
For fans of the original “Pitch,” “Pitch Perfect 2” is a fun, playful extension of the first Bella adventure. Your favorite characters are back with new music, lots of laughs and the same feel-good energy you’d expect from a follow-up feature.
For the non-fans, or moviegoers not entirely familiar with why people loved an a cappella movie in the first place, “Perfect 2” has all the energy of a good pop concert, but not necessarily from a group you’re looking forward to see. If you’re not overly critical and can get past the TV-sitcom style story plotting, there’s a lot to like. However, if you’re not in an especially forgiving mood, or dear goodness, if you hate a cappella music, the “Pitch” series won’t be right for you. Go check out “Mad Max” this weekend, or hold onto your money for next week’s “Tomorrowland.”
Travis Poppleton has been covering movie news, film reviews and live events for Deseret News and KSL.com since 2010 and co-hosts the FlixJunkies podcast. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.