This encore of the surprise acca-hit has all the same weaknesses of the first (a forced and weak plot with middling dialogue), but also some new strengths. But, while it isn’t a brilliant film, it is wonderfully entertaining… even with Rebel Wilson’s (Night at the Museum 3) oddly dissonant and syncopated comic sensibility. No, I’m not a fan, sorry. And Cannon, who returned to script this round, played into her weakest intentions to showcase her again. Thankfully, the infamous trailer of Wilson exposing herself was from the top of the film and quickly was out of the way. I will admit that it did serve the purpose of making the Bellas believably desperate so the situation could be reset for them to need to prove themselves.
But back to the entertaining part.
Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods) shines again in this sequel. I keep waiting for her feckless, honest, open delivery to get old and fake, but she manages to keep selling it and to make me believe. And the woman has chops, which doesn’t hurt in this story. Hailee Steinfeld (Begin Again), as the heir-apparent for the inevitable PP3, fares a bit less well. She is sweet in her part, but her singing voice isn’t anywhere near the strength of those around her. But, perhaps, that was to allow for growth in the next installment? She is a talent, so I’m hoping that was the reason. The rest of the cast is there primarily to support those two. There are some great cameos and the sub-plot of Bumper and Amy is diverting, but not particularly exciting, even with the inevitable and triumphant rendition of “We Belong.”
Elizabeth Banks (Love & Mercy) stepping up to direct this round gave the sequel a nice kick to it. Banks is quickly showing herself to be a multi-talented power in Hollywood. While her Hunger Games persona began to creep through into her character for this film, her directing was mostly sure and steady. There were only two very weak aspects. The comedy was often a tad broader than I like (in case that wasn’t obvious yet), but it was consistent in its approach, so I will give her a pass on it as a choice. However, there is little sense of time in the story, which covers an entire semester, somehow, but we have no sense time has passed at all from day one.
However, Banks’ biggest directing triumph in the movie is the final competition sequence. It is brilliantly put together to provide both the sense of montage and scope, while also seamlessly differentiating between the two singing groups we care about and everyone else. She accomplishes this by using a single song to homogenize the other competitors, who are all good, but clearly don’t stand out for us, and thus she avoids having to have elimination rounds in what is nearly a two hour movie. If you need to see a moment that proves her directorial ability, that sequence is it.
If you liked or loved the first, you will enjoy this sequel. It has the same heart and soul, and lots of great singing. I was able to overlook the bits I didn’t care about too much because the rest was that much fun. I couldn’t give it quite the same rating as the first only because it wasn’t as much of a surprise this time. But I am sure it will stand up to rewatching at least a few times. The third in the franchise is already announced… given the consistency of vision and ability to grow the characters, I’m hopeful it will stand up to another chorus.