I kind of wish I absolutely hated Pitch Perfect 2, so I could title this review “Pitch Perfect Ew” or, if I’m feeling particularly saucy, “Pitch Perfect Poo.” I mean, I go into every movie hoping that I’ll like the movie–I do not relish hating things, though it somtimes looks like I do–but if it is not my fate to like a movie, I’d like my consolation prize to be the opportunity to make a sweet pun.
Alas–no puns from me for Pitch Perfect 2. No real enthusiasm, either. It was… decent. You can tell that screenwriter Kay Cannon went back to the first movie, saw what people responded to, and doubled down it this time around. For example: The chemistry between Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and Bumper (Adam DeVine), a pleasant surprise in Pitch Perfect, turns into a full-blown romance subplot here. (Which is kind of weird when Bumper has heretofore been presented as a thoroughly unlikable asshole. Now I’m supposed to be rooting for him to land Amy? OK.) The cynical shield put up by Anna Kendrick’s Beca is once again at war with her secret marshmallow center, an inner conflict this time around exacerbated by a music industry internship that threatens to take her away from the Bellas when they need her most. Beca’s aca-pal Chloe (Brittany Snow) not-so-secretly wants to bone her. Soft-spoken Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) continues to say barely audible weird shit, and Skylar Astin’s Jesse is there pretty much exclusively to fawn over Beca, which to be fair is how the Internet in general reacts re: Anna Kendrick.
Instead of character development, we get endless fan service of the “Hey, did you like [insert thing] in the first movie? WE CAN DO MORE OF THAT!” variety. If you liked Pitch Perfect, you’ll probably like Pitch Perfect 2, because they are the same movie. Even the plot is a virtual carbon copy: After they’re humiliated by a mid-performance accident, the Barden Bellas have one last chance to prove themselves at the national/world championships, where our plucky, singing underdogs will have to dig deep and come together as a sisterhood so they can defeat the reigning champions. It is basically Mighty Ducks 2, but with singing instead of hockey, Germany instead of Iceland, and more celebrity cameos.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that fan service-y approach–not every movie has to reinvent the wheel, and it was probably a really smart decision on the part of director/producer Elizabeth Banks considering how much of Pitch Perfect‘s success came from enthusiastic fans giving it a boost on the home video market–but in this case it yields a middling movie. Like its predecessor, it’ll probably do really well on Netflix, because it is a genuinely funny movie, which is a huge point in its favor. Standouts are Rebel Wilson, Keegan-Michael Key as Beca’s boss, Banks and John Michael Higgins as a cappella announcers, and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and Flula Borg as the leaders of reigning a cappella world champions Das Sound Machine.
Unlike its predecessor, there’s not enough new or interesting about Pitch Perfect 2 to put it in league with top of the line comedy sequels like last summer’s 22 Jump Street. The world will probably have forgotten about Pitch Perfect 2 by the time the trailer for the inevitable Pitch Perfect 3 (“a cappella… innnn…. spaaaaaace!”) drops.
There is one thing that stuck out for me in Pitch Perfect 2, and unfortunately, it’s racist WTFery. The original Pitch Perfect caught some flak for the stereotypical nature of its two female Asian characters (one’s the resident shy weirdo, the other a mean, humorless academic overachiever who only hangs out with other Asians). This time around, the racial insensitivity parade gets a new member: Barden Bella Flo (Chrissie Fit), who basically exists as a one-note joke about how Latin America is scary and backwards. I thought it was funny the first time Flo interrupted a fellow Bella’s pity parade to point out, no, people have it way worse than you, but then virtually every time she opened her mouth it was to talk about that time she was kidnapped by a drug cartel or how she’ll probably be deported after college and be forced to live out the rest of her life in squalor, LOLOL. That’s her entire character. Oh, and she also does some flips. I’d be interested to hear from Latino/a authors on this character, but I just know she rubbed me the wrong way (nothing against Fit, whom I think did a really good job).
(There’s another moment where Chloe, in a “rally the team” speech, refers to the Bellas as “diverse.” Look at the image at the top of this post and see if you can tell why I’m rolling my eyes.)