Being a sequel is like living in the shadow of an older sibling. The newer film has to somehow develop its own identity to distinguish itself from the movie that came before. And it’s in this respect that Pitch Perfect 2 disappoints. It’s a fun movie, but it lacks the originality and charm of the first Pitch Perfect.
Pitch Perfect 2 focuses on an all-female a cappella group called “The Bellas,” one of many ensembles at Barden University. During a performance, one of the group’s members is hit with a wardrobe malfunction. Her pants rip, and as she’s not wearing underwear, the audience gets an embarrassingly good view of her unmentionables. Following this disgrace, the existence of The Bellas is threatened. They figure that the only way to clear their names is to win the worldwide a cappella championship, which will pit them against the popular and skillful German group, Das Sound Machine.
On the surface, the plot seems like it’d be sufficient to make Pitch Perfect 2 unique. But the devil is in the details, and when you look at the details of Pitch Perfect 2, it becomes clear that what you’re watching is a reprise of Pitch Perfect. In the first movie, the Bellas are embarrassed on stage and have to win an a cappella championship to redeem themselves, exactly like what happens in Pitch Perfect 2. In the first movie, there’s a scene in which multiple a cappella groups compete in a “riff-off,” in which the groups have to bounce songs off of each other that all fit into a random theme. And in Pitch Perfect 2, there’s a scene in which multiple a cappella groups compete by bouncing songs off of each other according to a random theme. This doesn’t ruin the movie, but it weakens it, and folks who got their fill of a cappella from Pitch Perfect will probably find Pitch Perfect 2 to be a retreading of some pretty well-treaded ground.
The characters of Pitch Perfect 2 don’t do much to make the movie feel unique, either. The two lead members of the German a cappella group, Das Sound Machine, are presented as being cartoonishly evil, while the other members of the group almost completely lack their own identity. In the first Pitch Perfect, the Bellas’ rival group was the Treblemakers, Barden University’s male a cappella group. Some members of the Treblemakers had their own little vignettes to help flesh out them out as characters, making the group feel somewhat real and organic. The members of Das Sound Machine, on the other hand, feel very flat.
But Pitch Perfect 2 has its strengths. Even though the members of Das Sound Machine feel flat and undeveloped, the group itself has its own character. The members all wear borderline kinky levels of leather and mesh, and their choreography is very precise and mechanical. Along with that, they usually sing tunes that are very dramatic and intimidating, like “Uprising” by Muse and “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled. Additionally, the group’s arrangements are very bass-heavy, with some dubstep-esque bass and beatboxing techniques. And it’s fun hearing familiar tunes sung with a German accent. There’s something strangely charming about hearing a singer say “und” instead of “and,” or pronouncing a “w” as a “v.”
And that’s not where the movie’s strengths end. Anna Kendrick does a solid job as Bellas member Becca. It’s hilarious watching her try to trash-talk the lead members of Das Sound Machine, but not being able to find any flaw with them, as they’re too physically perfect. Hailee Steinfeld turns in a decent performance as Emily, a new member of the Bellas. She comes across as nervous, even having trouble speaking during her audition, and it makes her seem like a real college freshman, thrilled to find her place in a new community. And Rebel Wilson is fantastic as Fat Amy, a singer with a ton of attitude. She dances and sings in a ludicrously over-dramatic and expressive way, and always has something funny to say, like pointing out that she’s the hottest and most talented member of the group.
Of course, I’d be remiss to not mention the music. With tons of pop, rock, hip-hop, and rap tunes, there is always going to be a solid beat and simple but thick harmonies. Featuring tunes from artists like Fallout Boy, Beyonce, Flo Rida, and Taylor Swift, Pitch Perfect 2 hits a home run when it comes to satisfying a craving for modern music. It’s a shame however, that the song “Flashlight,” which was recorded by Jessie J specifically for Pitch Perfect 2, is one of the weaker songs on the soundtrack. It’s not a bad tune, but “Flashlight” doesn’t have the appeal of hearing something familiar, and the song is just a little too corny and simple to make it an integral part of the movie. Lines like “Stuck in the dark but you’re my flashlight/ You’re getting me, getting me through the night,” are just a little too cheesy.
Pitch Perfect 2 is far from flawless. But despite its weaknesses, it’s still a fun watch. There’s plenty of goofball hilarity to entertain and distract from the movie’s shortcomings. If you have ever wanted to see members of the Green Bay Packers sing about their butts, then Pitch Perfect 2 will scratch that bizarrely specific itch. Along with that, you can see Anna Kendrick butting heads with the members of Das Sound Machine, Rebel Wilson nearly maim herself trying to slide down a staircase, and hear a lot of entertaining music. Pitch Perfect 2 won’t permanently change how you view film as an art medium, but if you want a fun way to chew up a couple of hours, then take a bite out of Pitch Perfect 2.
*Image from teaser-trailer.com