Saturday 16 May 2015

Pitch Perfect 2 ... Can't sing its praises

IF it weren't for the dancing and singing in this sequel to the 2012 film, Pitch Perfect 2 would have been hitting the low cash notes.
  Instead, it's expected to rack up US$68 million in its opening weekend in the US, beating Mad Max and relegating Avengers to third spot.
   However, the film doesn't hit the right notes until the Barden Bellas acapella group goes for an Outward Bound-type bonding retreat in the woods.
  Before that, it flounders with tedious narratives about Beca (Anna Kendrick) thinking of life after college,the Bellas quivering at the sight of German precision, and the Bellas losing their harmony.
   All three plots are nothing new, especially about a team failing at the first few hurdles to a more superior group, but then everything changes in the final competition, with the initially weak team trumping its cocky rival.
    First-time director Elizabeth Banks (Hunger Games), who appears in and also produces the film, adroitly uses anti-American sentiment to set up an us v them situation, thus, pitching the audience against those who may not succumb to the saccharine sweet film.
     Other than Beca, the returning cast members in this female-centric film are Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Aubrey (Anna Camp), Stacie (Alexis Knapp), Lilly (Hanna Mae Lee) and Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean). 
   Two newcomers are Flo (Chrissie Fit), a Hispanic whose jokes on South American culture and US immigration problems aren't that funny, and eager-beaver Emily (Hailee Steinfeld of Ender's Game), who writes songs and is eager to follow in her mum's footsteps by joining the Bellas.
     The Bellas have won three acapella collegiate titles since the first film but a wardrobe malfunction while performing before the Obamas results in their fall. Their only way back to redemption is by winning the world championship in Copenhagen.
   Their intimidating rivals are German team Das Sound Machine, led by statuesque blonde Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, a Dane) and Pieter (Flula Borg, a German). Their catchy and flawless performances send the Bellas into a downward spiral. 
  On top of that, Beca's attention is distracted when she obtains an internship in a recording studio, where lo and behold, she stands out from the others by doing her bread-and-butter mash-up move on a Snoop Dog Christmas rendition.
   In a scene that reflects the decline of mash-ups and the end of Glee on TV, a producer tells Beca that he wants something original from her instead of just mash-ups.
  Fat Amy, meanwhile, must decide whether to become a steady of Bumper (Adam DeVine). Her commitment phobia turns the tables on men, who are usually the ones associated with this fear. This idea also appeared in Bridesmaids (2011), the film that brought her to prominence. In that film, Kristen Wiig's character rebuffs the advances of policeman Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd).
  Aubrey makes a surprise appearance by announcing that she's the resort's owner. She, too, was uncertain of her future after graduating, but ended up being an entrepreneur. For this, I take my hat off to the producers for presenting a positive trait for women viewers.
   The film's theme of sisterhood is still as strong as the first film's, and it's embodied in the Bellas' rendition of Run the World (Girls) by Beyonce in the world championship.
   It's too bad that the film, other than its musical scenes, won't get you singing its praises.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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