I was a bit concerned when I went to see Pitch Perfect 2 as I didn’t believe it would be able to top the first one and I was right, it couldn’t, but it was still thoroughly entertaining, funny and full to the brim with epic acapella arrangements (that means singing without the aid of a musical instrument). Pitch Perfect 2 errs more towards the side of silly, slapstick comedy usually at the expense of Fat Amy, which feels like a stuck record at times and rather than making you laugh out loud, it makes you recoil with embarrassment. For a film that is dominated by a female cast, there is little about the characters that do women any favors at all. This was also true of the first installment of the film but even more so this time with the addition of some other characters and frustratingly it seems to be their ethnic heritage or their physical appearance that dictates their stereotypical character. For example, the German girl is a humorless bitch, the Hispanic girl is an illegal immigrant, the Asian girl is weird, the fat girl is the clown, the black girl is a sassy lesbian with a gambling problem and all the white girls are just normal, neurotic American girls, apart from one of them is a bit slutty. I find it disappointing that films still type cast people like this for the sake of injecting some humor into their script, its unintelligent writing. They missed an opportunity to take these female characters and use them as strong representations of the generation of women who are their audience, the millennials.
Ranting aside, this film is entertaining for the acapella singing alone. New kids on the block, Das Sound Machine, inject a new energy into the world of acapella with their huge group of singers and their outrageously talented beat boxer and despite their stereotypes, they provide a fun dynamic with the Barden Bella’s. It’s nice to see a real challenge for once, although “good overcomes evil” and the Bella’s will ultimately take the prize, despite being the inferior group, and yes it’s the US vs. The Germans (eye roll). The girls are good together and they gel really well, like all groups of friends they have their ups and downs but their overarching friendship and sisterhood is really apparent. The addition of Hailee Steinfeld as a legacy Bella (her mum was a Bella years ago so they have to let her audition and obviously she is good, duh) is a smart one and she does the geeky girl thing really well. I love how she didn’t go to College to graduate into a profession, she came to College to fulfill her dream of becoming a Barden Bella…I mean, when did these girls become so stupid? That’s beside the point, but, she provides a lot of laughs and is the breath of fresh air the Bellas need to win the contest. The idea of the film is that girls go on a journey, from Fat Amy accidentally showing the world (and President Obama) her vagina in a stage stunt gone wrong, to competing in the World Championships, from rock bottom to sky high. This formula is so familiar for these kinds of films and Pitch Perfect was often referred to as “the new Bring it On” because it follows the exact same narrative structure. If you get it right though, it doesn’t really matter if it follows the same structure as other films because it works and it’s uplifting. Everyone loves a success film, but for once I would just love to see the protagonists fail, to break with convention and just ruin everything. Wouldn’t that be fun? That would be a different kind of film though. If you want to get in on this “party” though have at it!
My favorite part of this film was the “Riff Off” where big time acapella fan David Cross hosts a night where all the acapella groups come together and basically sing acapella at each other until someone messes up. It was a really fun scene because it had all different kinds of music and saw all the groups performing popular songs. It’s a really guilty scene because it’s such an obvious ploy to get everything you love about the film and put it into one scene for an acapella overdose. There’s nothing wrong with a little indulgence though. It’s funny how the male characters are free from these stereotypes that grip onto our girls and instead seem to go in the opposite direction. For example, the acapella group “Green Bay Packers” are a group of impressively athletic men with ponytails and waistcoats who adore Taylor Swift and there’s The Tone Hangers who look like a group of Dad’s and of course The Treblemakers, who are just a group of cool guys who make awesome music. Why couldn’t the Bella’s be like that? Feminizing men in the way the Green Bay Packers were is often considered funny, but what’s funny about liking a flawless and talented musician like Taylor Swift? Like it’s meant to be hilarious that they love her so much. I don’t get it.
The most annoying part of the film was Beca and her sub story of interning at a record label because she wants to be a music producer. She fumbles about awkwardly talking to the music producer and spilling coffee. Considering the amount of people who are interning at this place it makes the story of her development there so unbelievable. Anyone who has worked within a creative industry knows how hard it is to get your voice heard and that you have to be pretty spectacular to rise above the crowd and get noticed. Beca does this within a few days of being in this place where the music producer allows her to step in on a recording of Snoop Dogg and sing over the top, manipulating some sounds to make his rendition of a classic Christmas song a little less like everything else out there. What she does isn’t exactly worthy of the praise she gets and it’s a really unrealistic representation of how work really is, but then that wouldn’t be a very interesting story would it?
The minor characters in Pitch Perfect 2 are the ones that garner the most laughs, for example, loveable asshole Bumper (DeVine) and acapella commentator Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberger (Banks). Both of whom are actually in quite a few scenes throughout the film, unlike the first film where Bumper disappeared halfway through and the film wasn’t anywhere near as funny after that. Bumper and his infatuation with Fat Amy is really lovely and the two of them together are hilarious. Rebel Wilson often improvises on her lines and Adam DeVine is perfect at riffing off her. Gale Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberger, fresh off the back of another failed marriage, delivers hilarity through her unprofessional and unorthodox commentating of the acapella groups. Simple, yet hilarious.
Despite all its flaws (of which there are many) Pitch Perfect 2 is really good fun. The subject matter, the actors and the music are enough to make this film successful in maintaining your attention for the duration (despite being able to predict the outcome) and its happy ending is uplifting and joyous although very familiar. I don’t know if there will be a third film, I really hope not because this verged on being an exact replica of the first film just in different locations and with a bigger budget, a third time will just feel like they are flogging a dead horse. I don’t think Pitch Perfect 2 is a bad a film, I just think it could have done with a bit more imagination. It missed a trick in personifying a generation and telling an awesome rags to riches story at the same time. It’s perfect for a Saturday night in, so if you’re ready to get “pitch slapped” then crank up the volume and enjoy!
Pitch Perfect 2 debuts Saturday, March 19 at 8:00pm.