After serenading audiences in 2012 with the surprisingly brilliant Pitch Perfect, the Bellas are back in Pitch Perfect 2 – a film that hits all the same notes, but never seems to find its harmony.
Following a humiliating performance where Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) flashes the entire Lincoln Centre her Lincoln Logs (her flap amys if you will) the Bellas, disgraced, are forced in their final year of college to reclaim their status as A Capella champions. Their only chance lies in the World Championship – a competition no American group has ever won. Without that victory, the entire history of the Bellas ends in a blaze of gory.
While, the Bellas are also forbidden from adding any new members (with the exception of Flo (Chrissie Fit) who was added somewhere between Pitch Perfect and the sequel I’m guessing) they are visited by a ‘Legacy’ (a girl whose mother was a Bella thereby imbuing her with heretic singing powers) who is a technical loophole regarding new members. Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) therefore joins Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy and… the others.
Pitch Perfect 2 follows a very logical pattern: audiences liked Pitch Perfect so there’s a very clear replication of the same beats from the first film. But where Pitch Perfect really was Beca’s story – the sequel has so many moving parts it’s easy to become somewhat overwhelmed. There’s the rivalry between the Americans and the German super team Das Sound Machine (sidenote: I am still not okay with a film about an American/German rivalry punctuated by a re-enactment of the Battle of Iwo Jima), there’s Beca’s internship with a music producer (Keegan-Michael Key), Fat Amy is trying to make it as a single lady on the prowl and newcomer Emily is a lyrical genius who bubbles like a glass of champagne in a pool of stale chlorine.
Rebel Wilson shines as funny Rebel Wilson – a role she has perfected over the years, and continues to play both in her life and also everything she’s ever cast in. Meanwhile Anna Kendrick leads the pack in what we’ll call DOING EXACTLY THE SAME THING AS THE FIRST FILM. Really, Aubrey (Anna Camp) shouts, Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) whispers unrelated nonsense, Jesse (Skylar Astin) is handsome and shows up to scenes energetically/freshly shampooed, and Bumper (Adam DeVine) is also there. Flo provides a lot of the comic relief for many of the scenes – by saying something racist about South Americans. It’s within Flo’s character that my biggest issue with Pitch Perfect 2 lies.
This constant need to pepper every exchange with an absurd one-liner that other characters would simply shrug off. Where the first film did so with a slight charm, Pitch 2 had an air of desperation striving to shock with edgy jabs. Most of which fell pretty flat. Don’t get me started on the weird sriracha shout-out at Beca’s internship.
Strangely – a plot point of the film follows the Bellas trying to find “their sound”, insinuating that along the way they managed to lose a sense of self. Maybe it’s a little too Meta to insinuate that the film follows the same methodology, because I’d also argue there isn’t a point where Pitch Perfect 2 really finds its identity.
Ultimately the music is fine. It packs no punch or surprises as it follows a very similar formula. The Bellas may be back, and there are some genuine laughs to be had – but to no great crescendo.
Not so much a sell-out concert as it was just kara-okaaay.