Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2 [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars)  RogerEbert.com (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RogerEbert.com (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review  

Pitch Perfect 2 [2015] (directed by Elizabeth Banks, screenplay by Kay Cannon characters by Mickey Rapkin) brings back much of the cast and flavor of the "Glee" TV-series [2009-2015] inspired Pitch Perfect [2012] (reviewed here previously).

As with the original Pitch Perfect, the film's cruder at times than it needed to be.  I do hope that some day, "Soon and Very Soon..." this somewhat pointless fad will come to an end. (Yes, I and the whole world get it, "women can be just as crude as men," but then WHY? ... especially when the added crudity doesn't have much of a point to it, doesn't really further the plot, etc).

However, there are, IMHO, more positive developments as well.  Yes, the film's overall tone remains rather snarky in its often LOL humor.  However, the central acapella group in the film, The Bellas of Barden U., proves to be a remarkably diverse group of young women.  The group includes not simply "cute sorority girl" types but weight challenged "Fat Amy" (played by Rebel Wilson) and a rather intimidating looking African American lesbian Cynthia Rose (played by Ester Dean) as well as "Guatemalan refugee" Flo (played by Chrissee Fit) with her own often LOL hilarious (in their "welcome to my world ... if you dare" starkness) concerns, and the even more inscrutable Asian student Lilly (played by Hana Mae Lee).  If there is a Pitch Perfect 3, I do hope that as much is done with Lilly's character as is done with Flo's in this film.  But I certainly got the point.  EVERYBODY comes to college (or otherwise enters our lives) with their own story.  And if this isn't yet clear when one considers simply the "white women" in this film -- again there's Rebel Wilson's weight challenged character Amy, but there's also Anna Kendrick's very professional (20 going on 35) character Beca and even newcomer Hailee Steinfeld's (I am a legacy, my mother just loved being a Bella) character Emily, none of which fit the stereotypical and frankly demeaning "Coed" label for young college women -- it becomes patently clear as one considers the non-white characters Cynthia Rose, Lily and Flo. 

Yes, Flo like the other characters is exaggerated, BUT I FOUND HER CHARACTER TO BE A JOY.  This is because I've known "Flos" both at University of Southern California while I was in grad school back in the late 1980s as well as here in Chicago during my past 10 years at Annunciata Parish where I've been stationed.  Again, her character is exaggerated but I can personally attest that young Hispanic women come to college or otherwise enter into our lives with concerns that are often much starker than most "gringos" (like myself) would at first imagine.   For instance, how many first generation Americans of European immigrants (like myself actually) would seriously worry that returning back to the old country to visit relatives could result in them being _abducted_ and then held for ransom?  (This is a concern that Flo matter-of-factly brings up in the course of the film). Yet in these years of high violence in Mexico, this has been _more than_ "just an idle concern" for many Mexican American families contemplating "visiting the folks" back in Zacatecas, Guerrero, etc.  True and THANKS BE TO GOD, I have not heard of any of our parishioners being abducted while going back, but I do know that it is a concern.  And when I proposed a number of years back a Mission trip to visit our Mexican Servites at their mission in the mountains of Guerrero, a number of my parishioners from Mexico responded smiling: "Padre, we love you and we love the Servites, but do you know where you're going?" and continuing "When we go back to our country, we go back to basically the parts that we know (basically to our family and back)."  The proposed trip would have been led by the Mexican Servites, who know what they are doing, BUT I UNDERSTOOD THE CONCERN.  Mexico today is not exactly a safe place to travel to IF ONE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT ONE IS DOING or where one is going.

Lilly's Asian character is less developed in this film than Flo's but hers is also a reminder that Asian students that one runs into at college (or otherwise in one's life) will once again have their own stories and concerns that will not be of "Leave it to Beaver" "White Toast" America.  And again, I had experiences with this while I was in grad-school down at USC in Los Angeles.

So, wonderful, the film presents us with a fairly diverse group of young women, all belonging to the acapella group "The Bellas" from Barden U.  But what actually happens then in the film? 

Well, as I noted in reviewing the first film, Pitch Perfect [2012], plot in a film like this is really beside the point.  In as much as there is a plot, it exists to give The Bellas and other (nominally competing) acapella groups presented in the film excuses to perform / sing.  And so ...

... After embarrassing themselves before the President of the United States at the Kennedy Center, The Bellas, seek to "redeem themselves" competing in a World Acapella Championship set in the film in Copenhagen, Denmark.  This gives the film-makers an excuse to take the film to Denmark as well as (perhaps) to give a salute to the annual EuroVision Song Contest that has been a phenomenon in Europe now for many years.  The Bellas' chief competitor was a German group calling itself Das Sound Machine led by Die Kommisar(in) (played by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) and Peter Krämer (played by Flula Borg) that could have quite easily been in the EuroVision competition. 

There's also a subplot involving Anna Kendrick's quite professional character Beca getting an internship at a local recording studio under a wildly off-the-wall yet perfectionistic boss (played by Keegan-Michael Key) as well as another one involving Hailee Steinfeld's character Emily whose mother had been "a Bella" back when she was in college -- a reminder here of the value of extra-curricular groups like The Bellas in fostering life-long friendships and even inter-generational ones as a result of participating in them. 

All this makes for a generally good ride.  Again, the crudity, while not awful, awful, is still needlessly detracting / distracting.  Still it's still a nice fun movie about the college years of a nice and quite diverse group of young women.  So over all, a pretty good job!

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