2012’s Pitch Perfect was a major surprise that not many saw coming. Most didn’t even see it at all while it was in theaters (including myself, a DVD viewing finally happened in 2014). That film featured major laughs, incredibly fun musical set pieces and some emotional heft to get invested in. In true sequel fashion, Pitch Perfect 2 continues the trend of its predecessor in a successful (non-risk-taking) way.
The laughs are here. The music is here. There are some good emotional moments. Its all here (with the addition of an extremely funny sexist, racist announcer even!). While some decry the film for being too formulaic, I for one greatly enjoyed coming back to the world of the Pitches and laughing with them for another adventure. Is it more of the same? Yes. Luckily for us, “same” means tons of laugh and awesome a capella for two hours and that is just fine with me.
After winning their college championship three years ago (and every year since) the Barden Bellas have plateaued. We watched them learn to groove together in the first film and they have apparently been riding that success ever since. Now shtick has been established they have resorted to flashy gimmicks to further their performance. The very first scene in the movie perfectly explains where they are at and communicates it through a musical number.
The song sounds fine and it is fun to watch, but some of the magic is missing. At the beginning of the film you feel like they are just going through the motions. That’s the point. You are enjoying yourself but you are looking for more. Soon the performance gets a little too chaotic. Too many things are moving. Each person is trying to add something new and its not melding well with the other members. You feel the tension rising. Something is going to go wrong. Never missing a beat, Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) arrives with a bang. It is her wardrobe malfunction that sets the plot in motion.
With that opening scene you perfectly understand what type of movie you are going to get with Pitch Perfect 2. We have really fun a cappella pop mash ups. We have the story of a group getting their groove back. Finally, we have a story that is set in motion by an overweight comedian flashing the President of the United States. Either you accept Pitch Perfect 2 for what it is or you don’t. I’m all in and Pitch Perfect 2 and its absurd sense of humor won me the whole time.
That’s not to say the film is without its problems. The story is a too overstuffed with characters and subplots to make a fully coherent movie. Make no mistake, each character is funny and each subplot is interesting and resolves appropriately; but when edited together it doesn’t quite work as one two hour experience.
Becca (Anna Kendrick) is ready to move on with her life and starts interning at a music studio. She works under the extremely talented Keegan-Michael Key who is the grammy winning Producer at the studio. Fat Amy and Bumper (Adam DeVine) have continued their humorous will they/won’t they from the previous film and have a romantic subplot here. Newcomer Emily (Hailee Steinfield) joins the Bellas as a freshmen and hopes to carry the torch passed down from her Bella mother. Each of these are very fun stories to follow, but they all distract from the main plot of the film (as I was writing this out I had to remind myself of what the main story was).
In the midst of all these smaller stories we have our overall thrust of the film where it belongs, competitive a cappella. The Bellas are looking to win the world a cappella championship and their main competition is the fictional German a cappella sensation Das Sound Machine. It is in the musical moments that the film really shines while also showing itself to be a rehash of the original. There are quieter moments where the group slowly adds harmony after harmony on top of each other rising to a beautiful song. There is the wildly entertaining “riff-off” scene where multiple groups improvise songs based on a pre-set category (“songs about butts,” “so pretty much anything on the radio”). There is the big finale where Das Sound Machine intimidates with a larger-than-life show stopper and *SPOILER* the Bellas somehow manage to save the day with their emotional brand of a capella.
As you can see, it’s all here and it all works. Watching the film I realized it wasn’t taking too many risks when it comes to taking a different direction. We have our goofy underdogs taking down the big threat. Honestly, it doesn’t hold the movie back. The musical moments are still fun to watch and get really creative when it comes to the mash-ups. Each individual subplot revolves appropriately and it’s very satisfying seeing these characters succeed. Most importantly, the movie is funny. This is a must in a film like this. Since the film is all over the place when it comes to pacing and juggling subplots it had better be funny so as to keep your attention.
In a different genre this film would be a very tedious sequel. It doesn’t take any risks, it gives the audience what they want and follows the formula set by the first film. With Pitch Perfect 2, a comedy-musical, I found myself enjoying the film the whole way through I would highly recommend it to fans of the genre. Simply put, if the songs are good and the jokes are funny it fully makes up for a lack of original story here.
Pitch Perfect 2 might not be the most groundbreaking release this summer, but it is one of the most entertaining. It was great seeing a movie so dedicated to being fun. There is nothing worse than going to a comedy and not laughing. I am happy to say that Pitch Perfect 2 is not that experience. On the contrary, I found myself laughing all throughout the film while also wanting to buy the soundtrack on the way out. Aca-success!
*Warning: Nerd Rant Starting*
P.S. There was one moment in the film that was egregious and deserves mentioning. In the first film the story goes that the Bellas have always been the laughing stock due to them being all female. They can’t hit the low notes and the lack of bass separates them from the rest of the pack (it really does and the first film communicates this great). This story is resolved when Chloe ends up getting nodes on her vocal cords. In a typical Pitch Perfect way, a tragedy like vocal nodes is turned around when Chloe discovers she can sing extremely low notes. The bass has been added to the Bellas toolbox and their final musical number explodes with a driving bass.
Well……I could hear the bass being sung in Pitch Perfect 2. This was great, I love the consistency. Let’s see how Chloe is doing……wait. Chloe is singing the lyrics like the rest of the group? Where is the “doo-op” the bass is supposed to be singing? I can answer that for you, its not there. The filmmakers wanted the bass to be there without committing to having Chloe sing the bass.
Is this the rant of a former music student? Yes. Does this affect the quality of the film in any way at all? No. But darn it if I’m going to review this movie this injustice cannot go unmentioned! I speak on behalf of all basses when I say we are disappointed in Pitch Perfect 2’s bass-ploitation, we will not be silent!
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