I love the first Pitch Perfect film. It was outrageously stupid and yet easily relatable with its use of generic rom-com and competition-driven tropes. The comedy was gross-out, entirely un-politically correct, and often times straight up bizarre. But I loved that. You weren’t sure where the next gag would come from or what kind of humour it would be, but above all else, it was laugh out loud funny. So news of a sequel was embraced in this household.
While the sequel remains hilarious, the plot is very thin and the jokes tend to be rehashes of ones we’ve already heard. Pitch Perfect 2 is nowhere near as good as its predecessor, but it’s still great fun to watch, with its fair share of shining moments.
For the second installment, like so many sequels before it, Pitch Perfect 2 has attempted to go epic in scope. We’re not talking national collegiate-level performing anymore; this is the World Championship, aca-bitches! If that weren’t enough to increase the stakes, the Bellas have embarrassed their school at a performance for the President, where Fat Amy suffers from a wardrobe malfunction of the worst kind – showing her vagina to the nation. In order to reclaim their place in national competition and secure a future for the Barden Bellas, the girls need to prove themselves at the Worlds.
It certainly isn’t new to have a musical rely heavily on its musical numbers over developing a meaningful plot, and Pitch Perfect 2 is no exception. Not that I minded terribly, the overall point of a film like this is to have a laugh – and that was served up as promised. Where the first film succeeded with it’s narrative of fitting in, triumph over adversity, and romance, the second film tries to emulate this entirely, with the introduction of a new Bella, Emily. Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) is a legacy addition to the group, desperate to fit in and make something of herself. Like Becca (Anna Kendrick) in the first film, Emily has her own special talents: not producing this time, but writing music. The obvious perfect team, right?
Instead of building off the relationship of Becca and Jesse (Skylar Astin) from the first film, these two are depicted as having a successful relationship but given next to no screen time (seriously people, where is my Skylar Astin hit?! He’s too pretty not to take up more screen time). Instead, it’s a fledgling relationship between newbie Emily and oddball Benji (Ben Platt) that takes on the romantic plot. But again, this is given so little screen time as to feel very forced and undercooked.
The triumph aspect of the sequel’s plot is two-fold: the World Championships and Becca’s work as an intern at a recording studio. In the a cappella world of the Barden Bellas, they face a truly worthy foe in the form of Das Sound Machine – a group of intensely competitive Germans. This is where some of the freshest humour in the film appears – not with the traditional jokes about Germans but in Becca’s response to them. When they attempt to psych-out the Bellas, Becca finds it impossible to do anything other than compliment Das Sound Machine’s leading lady Kommissar (Denmark’s Birgitte Hjort Sørensen). The other challenge is for Becca to make a good impression while on her internship, where she struggles to find ‘her voice’ (also mirrored in the problems the Bellas have with their competitive world).
Of course, in a film like this the stakes are never really that high. We always know that the characters will succeed in their quests. Even the path to how they will succeed is never really a surprise. Instead, the enjoyment comes from the ride in getting there. The trouble I had with Pitch Perfect 2 is that it didn’t really build on any of the characterization set-up in the original film, instead relying on replaying exactly the arc that happened but with the newly introduced character. Some growth building on what happened to the original characters would have been nice, even if they did fall back on a traditional ‘stress’ on the relationship set up in the first film. Anything to make this one feel even slightly different from the first would have been welcome.
This isn’t to say that the film is awful. It really is great fun to watch and certainly a great film for a Sunday evening. The continued use of the outright offensive jokes is always welcome, where other comedies rely on staid, safe humour. But having already been served up a brilliant first installment, I wanted the sequel to build on that, not simply rehash what we’ve already seen.
Verdict: Fun, stupid, and outrageous, pumping full with great musical numbers. However, it doesn’t hold up to its predecessor or introduce anything new.