Pitch Perfect 2
In terms of new ideas, Pitch Perfect 2 doesn’t offer many. The same characters are back, performing in the same singing competitions against some of the same rivals. The jokes, tone, and conflicts are pretty much the ones we encountered in the first movie. This consistency turns out to be just what makes Pitch Perfect 2 such a joy to watch. Experiencing this movie is like reuniting with old friends from college one hasn’t met in over a decade, and reliving the great times we once had.
Several years after the events of the first movie, the Barden Bellas are still kicking musical butt and are a nationwide success. Trouble arrives when the a cappella musical group screws up on stage again, this time when resident Australian comedienne Fat Amy has a wardrobe malfunction and the president and First Lady happen to be in the audience. Suspended from performing and recruiting, the Bellas embark on their only chance at redemption: winning the World Championships of a cappella. Besides adding a few new members, the Bellas discover that their new major rival is the fiercely regimented German group Das Sound Machine,
For fans of the first Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2 builds on the previous movie’s humor and plots, with few things changed. Even one character who apparently graduated and left the Bellas at the beginning of the movie later reappears in her new job. The most prominent new Bella is Emily Junk, played with cuteness and warmth by Hailee Steinfeld. While most of the minor characters exist solely to crack ethnic jokes about themselves and make visual gags, Emily is a charming and relatable character who serves as a foil to the more self-centered Beca. Her determination to sing original songs she composed rather than cover songs, which is a taboo in the a cappella community, becomes crucial in helping Beca and the Bellas triumph. The superficial romantic relationship between Emily and awkward Benji, unfortunately, is less fascinating and much less important. Much is made of the fact that Emily is a “legacy”, since her mother Katherine was an influential Bella, but this much-ballyhooed heritage barely comes into play and the role of Katherine is a wasted opportunity for Katey Sagal, who got to express the full range of her phenomenal singing talent on Sons of Anarchy.
For the most part, Pitch Perfect 2 keeps doing the sort of music it does best, which is cover and mash up popular rock, pop, and hip hop songs. As befitting a sequel, this time the actors and writing come across as more confident, and everything is done on a grander scale. The riff off battle in the first film that occurred in a pool hole now gets beefed up into an impromptu song competition in the basement of a mansion. Having become the national champions of a cappella, the Barden Bellas now set their sights on competing internationally. The songs and dances are now more elaborate and spectacular, and no less catchy, although nothing as memetastic as the Cup Song is present in this film. As in the first film, the bulk of the great comedic moments and one-liners belong to Fat Amy, who resembles a female counterpart to Zach Galifianakis’s crazy character in The Hangover. Special mention for humor also goes to a cappella commentators John and Gail, who have a knack for delivering vicious insults in a way that sounds cheerful and polite.
While the music and humor are still terrific, the actual dilemmas the protagonists face feel contrived. Just like in the first film, the Barden Bellas struggle with intragroup rivalries and misunderstandings, and have difficulty establishing a certain voice for themselves. Beca gets an internship at a record label, which is mostly an excuse to show Keegan-Michael Key as a hilariously acerbic producer and let Snoop Dogg make a cameo appearance while singing Christmas songs. By not telling her friends about her extracurricular activity, Beca needlessly creates a conflict. The film exaggerates this indiscretion to try to make viewers feel that the group’s disharmony is mostly Beca’s fault, even though the other singers are fanatically devoted to the group at the expense of planning for what careers they will have after graduation. Again, the biggest enemies of the Bellas are themselves. It takes a few disastrous performances and some fights at a retreat camp for the Bellas to get back into shape, yet the Bellas already spent plenty of time and energy learning to successfully function as one group in the previous movie. Having them repeat their mistakes and relearn their lessons is hard to believe and uninteresting to follow.
Even the ubiquitous Cup Song reappears and plays a key role in helping the Bellas unite and find their proper musical style. Only two characters from Das Sound Machine have any depth to them, and the antagonists as a whole are too cartoonish and silly to be a serious challenge. With so many characters and factions included, the movie struggles to give them equal coverage, and subplots like Fat Amy and Bumper dating and Beca trying to prove herself as a producer are tiresome.
Anyone who enjoyed Pitch Perfect will certainly enjoy Pitch Perfect 2. This film won’t keep you in suspense, but will absolutely make you laugh and sing along. Even after graduating, the Bellas may very well find a way of continuing to perform a cappella, and a lot of people will not mind watching their future adventures ina pretty inevitable sequel.