Out in Theaters: Pitch Perfect 2 Graduates, But Without Honors
The breakout hit of 2012, Pitch Perfect hit all the right notes and had all the right sass to become a run-away hit with the gay community. But even more than that, the film’s themes of comradery and perseverance have found universal appeal, resonating with everyone from the Green Bay Packers (more on that later) to my cousin’s 8-year-old son Nick who can recite the entire movie. Add in the fact that it’s perpetually playing on cable and available OnDemand to the point where you can accidentally watch it for a 49th or 50th time (it is impossible to turn off!), you’ve got a bona-fide universal hit for … Universal. So after crossing the $100 million-dollar mark, a sequel was naturally put in the works. I’m happy to report that while Pitch Perfect 2 isn’t as aca-awesome as the first film, but if you’re a fan of Pitch Perfect, they’ve tailor-made this sequel just for you.
Since we left the Barden Bellas, they’ve won two additional national titles and risen to such acclaim that Pitch Perfect 2 opens with them performing for a packed house at the Kennedy Center. After an aerial stunt goes awry and causes Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) to tear her leotard and expose her down under to over 2,000 people (including President and Michelle Obama in a cameo), the girls become embroiled with a scandal delightfully dubbed “Muffgate.” Barred from competing by the heads of the National a cappella Board (Elizabeth Banks performing double duty as the film’s director, and John Michael Higgins still providing the series’s best and most offensive/racist/sexist/ridiculous one-liners), the Bellas negotiate that if they are able to win the World Championships of a cappella that they can be reinstated.
Tightly wound second-in-command Chloe (Brittany Snow), who by the way has failed enough classes to be entering her seventh year of college in order to stay with the Bellas, wants the ladies to practice practice practice in order to beat their international competition (an over-the-top-accented German supergroup Das Sound Machine), but our heroine Beca (Anna Kendrick) has her future in mind and starts a secret internship at a major music label. Can she balance her dreams and those of the Bellas? Spoiler alert: yes.
Meanwhile, incoming freshmen Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld)—her mother’s maiden name, her dad’s last name is Hardon—wants nothing more than to be a Bella, but the group can’t hold auditions due to their suspension. Luckily, Emily’s mom was a Bella back in the ’70s, so through a legacy loophole Emily becomes the only new recruit, showing off her vocal talents with (gasp!) an orignial song. Cue an hour of foreshadowing and being told that a cappella groups are only supposed to do covers. (I wonder if Emily’s original song “Flashlight” (written for the screen by the likes of Sia and Sam Smith) will appear in the finale? Another spoiler alert: yes.)
Pitch Perfect 2 is a predictable affair, a paint-by-numbers of things that made the first a hit:
- Did you love the split screen music or training montages? They’re back!
- Did you love the Riff Off in the pool? It’s back, including the return of the Treblemakers, with the addition of … the Green Bay Packers (yes actual players from the NFL football team who were such huge fans of the first film they begged to be in the second)!
- Did you love the tender coming-togetherness of the Bellas singing “Party in the USA?” They do it again—with “Cups!”
- Did you love the adorkable romance between Beca and Jesse (Skyler Astin)? They … kinda leave Jesse out, but a new romance blooms between Emily and painfully awkward magician Benji (Ben Platt).
Screenwriter Kay Cannon (30 Rock) relies way too heavily on rehashing the things that made the first film a hit, but manages to inject enough comedy into Pitch Perfect 2 to keep it flowing and feeling fresh. The laughs have more than doubled this time around with Fat Amy getting more screen time to develop her budding romance with “bad boy” Bumper (Adam DeVine), new Bella Flo (Chrissie Fit) is a Guatemalan exchange student providing a mildly racist and highly amusing worldview, and Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele) brings laughs to the role of Beca’s record-producing boss. Sadly, some of the supporting cast suffers as slutty Stacie (Alexis Knapp), lesbian Cynthia Rose (ridiculously talented songwriter Ester Dean), and eccentric near-mute Lilly (Hana Mae Kim), who all stole scenes in the original, aren’t given enough time to shine.
As for the music, as fun as it was in the theater, I left forgetting most of what I had heard, listening to the soundtrack on Spotify as I write this review. The magic of the first film came from the group working toward their sound, which resulted in the incredible finale showcasing everything from Simple Minds to Jessie J. With the sequel starting with their “fresh sound,” it didn’t have anywhere to grow … so it uses “Flashlight” enough times to encourage you to go home and download it from iTunes. A highlight is the World Championship medley of Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” sung in multiple languages by competitors ranging from a cappella supergroup (with two out gay members) the Pentatonix to Philly’s own Penn Masala.
If you loved Pitch Perfect, you’re going to like Pitch Perfect 2—there’s no doubting that. My only problem is that no matter how much fun I had or how much funnier of a film Pitch Perfect 2 may be, it’s simply checking the boxes set forth by the first film. With Rebel Wilson announcing that she’s attached to star in a third film, I can only hope that they won’t be as lazy the third time around and give these ladies a worthy sequel to sing about. Overall, Pitch Perfect 2 graduates, but without honors.
Now Playing at: UA Main Street, The Pearl at Avenue North, Rave University 6, UA Riverview Plaza
Pro Tip: Make sure to stay into the credits for a quartet of cameos you won’t want to miss!