Pitch Perfect 2 (B-). Second verse—same as the first! Anna Kendrick (Into the Woods) returns as Beca, a leading member of the national-championship-winning Barden Bellas. (That’s a college a capella singing group, in case you missed the first one.) A wardrobe malfunction during a performance attended by President Obama gets the Bellas suspended from stateside competitions, and their only shot at redemption is to win the world championship. You can guess at the trials and tribulations that pad out the movie. And I do mean “pad”; at 115 minutes, the film suffers from several long dead spots. And, like the original, it is unnecessarily vulgar—especially in scenes involving Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson, Bridesmaids). But there are also several chuckles to be had, and the elaborate musical numbers are pretty entertaining. Although most of the Bellas graduate from college during this installment, new freshman member Emily (Hailee Steinfeld, The Homesman) can provide a bridge to future sequels if Pitch Perfect 2turns out to be an artistic triumph makes a ton of money. Elizabeth Banks (Our Idiot Brother) both appears and makes her feature-film directorial debut.
The Movie Snob finally makes it back to the movies.
The Lego Movie (B-). This movie is getting high marks from the critics, but I just can’t go better than “pretty good.” It’s an animated film about a world made of Legos—a world of bland conformity ruled by the Big Brother-like President Business (voice of Will Ferrell, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby). But there is a prophecy that an ordinary Lego person will rise up and break Business’s stranglehold on Legoland, and it looks like The Chosen One may be an ordinary construction worker named Emmet (voice of Chris Pratt, her). His potential chosenness is discovered by a nonconformist chick named Wyldstyle (voice of Elizabeth Banks, Definitely, Maybe), who recruits him to join some sort of rebellion against Business and his main henchman, Bad Cop (voice of Liam Neeson, The Phantom Menace). The movie has plenty of pluses. The animation can be very striking, some of the humor is pretty good, and it is fun to pick out all the famous vocal talent at work, including Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption), Will Arnett (TV’s Arrested Development), Jonah Hill (This Is the End), Alison Brie (TV’s Community), and many more. On the down side, as in many regular action movies, many of the action scenes moved so fast in places that I just gave up trying to figure out what was going on. It started to feel a little long after a while, and I didn’t think the climactic ending was all that great. Still, I give the film makers credit for trying something reasonably fresh and original. Oh, and the theme song “Everything Is Awesome” really is kind of awesome.
Pitch Perfect (B-). The ubiquitous Anna Kendrick (End of Watch) strikes again in this rather predictable tale about Beca (Kendrick), a college misfit who joins a competitive a cappella group, makes friends, and finds herself getting emotionally invested in their winning regionals, semi-finals, etc. And about how Beca kind of likes this cute guy in a rival singing group, but she has to reject him because, you know, she’s emotionally distant on account of her parents’ divorce. Aside from the predictability, the movie is also unfortunately vulgar and gross. (Be warned: projectile vomiting plays a significant role in the movie.) But in spite of all that, I still kind of liked it. There are some pretty funny lines. There’s lots of singing, Glee-style, and it’s always entertaining. Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games) and John Michael Higgins (We Bought a Zoo) are funny as the highly inappropriate commentators at the various singing competitions. And the gorgeous Anna Camp (The Help) does a nice job of playing Beca’s nemesis, the tightly-wound but not entirely villainous leader of Beca’s a cappella group. It’s really too bad they had to make the movie so crass.
Our Idiot Brother (C-). I really wanted to like this movie, but it just didn’t work out between us. Paul Rudd (Clueless), whom I usually like in just about anything, plays Ned, an amiable doofus who lives on an organic farm with his horrible girlfriend and who spends a few months in the slammer after he sells marijuana to a uniformed police officer. When Ned gets out of the pokey, he finds he’s no longer welcome back at the farm and has to go sofa surfing with each of his three sisters in turn. There’s unhappily married and unbearably frumpy Liz (Emily Mortimer, Match Point), tightly wound and unbearably witchy Miranda (Elizabeth Banks, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), and free-spirited lesbian-but-not-always Natalie (Zooey Deschanel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Ned’s utter lack of guile and penchant for saying exactly what he thinks causes all sorts of angst for his sisters, and I imagine the actors had fun playing these extreme types. But it’s not that entertaining, and certainly not very funny, to watch. And of course, being an R-rated comedy, it’s very and unnecessarily crude and vulgar. I don’t think I laughed once until they started playing some blooper reels during the closing credits.
Definitely, Maybe (B-). It’s tough to come up with an original plot for a romantic comedy, but this one makes a game run at it. Will Hayes (Ryan Reynolds, Just Friends) is a thirtysomething guy in NYC. He’s going through a divorce, and one day its his turn to pick up his 10-year-old daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine) from school. The school is in pandemonium because parents have just found out that their kids have just been taught some pretty graphic stuff in sex-ed. (A big minus is how much sexual dialogue they foist on cute little Abigail.) Anyway, when Will puts Maya to bed that night, she wants to know how Will and her mom met, so maybe they can see what went wrong and fix it. So the bulk of the movie is a flashback as Will tells Maya about the three serious girlfriends he had in his single days, and she has to guess which one eventually became her mom. There’s his college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), the quirky April (Isla Fisher, Wedding Crashers) whom Will meets while working for the Bill Clinton campaign, and the free-spirited journalist Summer (Rachel Weisz, Agora). It’s not a bad flick, and it’s a hoot to see true-believer Will have to deal with Bill Clinton’s foibles as they come to light in his flashbacks over the years.