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Alison Recommends: “Pitch Perfect 2

Alison Recommends: “Pitch Perfect 2
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by Alison Bailes

It’s very rare that a follow-up movie is as entertaining as the original, but in this case I feel the sequelitis curse has been lifted.  I laughed more at “PP2” than I did in “PP” and left feeling very relaxed and generally full of bonhomie.

It certainly wasn’t due to the originality of the structure, which hues closely to Part One. The Barden Bellas, the a cappella university singing group from the first movie have disgraced themselves performing in front of a packed Lincoln Center crowd, including the President and First Lady. The incident, involving Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and an overtaxed spandex unitard becomes known as “Muffgate” and results in the Bellas being stripped of their domestic performing rights by the officious a cappella college league organizers (the hilarious Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins). The only way for the girls to redeem themselves is to enter the World Championships taking place in Copenhagen, where they will face off against Teutonic giants Das Sound Machine.  Thus the singing stakes are raised and a series of practice throw-downs and covert singing battles begins.

It’s pretty clear where the premise will lead us; anyone who’s ever seen a sports underdog movie will predict the big finale and the ups and downs along the way.  But the script, once again by Kay Cannon (from the original characters in Mickey Rapkin’s book) keeps the one-liners and pratfalls coming fast and furious. The cast remains the same with a couple of differences; Fat Amy’s role has been considerably enlarged in keeping with Wilson’s comic talents and improv abilities and no doubt her rising profile, and Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”) joins the Bellas as a new recruit and a talented songwriter.

Elizabeth Banks takes over directing duties from Jason Moore, but her time behind the camera does not seem to have distracted her from turning in another star performance as Gail, the preening commentator who is paired with the smugly offensive John (Higgins) as they offer scathing critiques of the competitors. Some of the film’s best lines, often tossed off casually come from these two who have clearly taken a leaf out of Christopher Guest’s satirical book.

Anna Camp’s Aubrey makes a late stage appearance as a camp counselor who helps the Bellas rediscover their “sound”, while Brittany Snow’s Chloe is in her seventh year at Barden, having purposefully failed Russian Lit. in order to keep performing.  Ethnic and sexual diversity is represented by Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee and Chrissie Fit, although to be fair, their characters’ ethnic and sexual traits are merely reduced to punch lines about the stereotypes they represent. Funny though.

Women are front and central in “Pitch Perfect 2” (Skylar Astin and Adam DeVine return but are mostly support for the ladies) and with a female director and writer, as well as strong themes about forging careers after college, this can be seen as progress. Two men do steal all their scenes however: Keegan-Michael Key as an obnoxious entrepreneur and David Cross as the flamboyant host of an underground a cappella battle where the Green Bay Packers (yes really) are keen to win the top prize. As always, song choice is key….and musical arrangements, though unrealistic sounding, are exciting and fun.

But it’s Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy who once again steals the show with her brazen sexuality and utter lack of self-consciousness. Enlivening any movie she stars in (she was the best thing in “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”), she is, as they say in Barden world, aca-amazing.


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