Pitch Perfect 2 Review

The surest way to ruin a great, original comedy is to give it a sequel. Fortunately, in all the ways that “Pitch Perfect 2” is pointless, it’s equally harmless. The movie knows it’s a studio cash-grab, and the effort behind it shows, but the care-free attitude from the onset also appropriately lowers expectations.

Writer Kay Cannon returns with producer/star Elizabeth Banks going behind the camera, and clearly neither have a problem with sticking to the 2012 film’s formula and giving fans their fix of the Barden Bellas and all-vocal mash-ups. The movie opens as the first did, with another national moment-of-shame for the heroes, one that disqualifies them from national competition (phew, otherwise the plot would’ve been even more of the same) and gives them one shot at redemption: win at an international competition (and beat the immaculate group Das Sound Machine from Germany in the process) or end up being disbanded.

Surrounding this conventional plot are a couple handfuls of scenes that exist solely as a vehicle for the a cappella soundtrack, such as a freshman orientation concert from the Treblemakers, a “scouting mission” to a car show to see Das Sound Machine perform and a private a ca-battle between five groups (one being the Green Bay Packers).

Then there are the character subplots that float in and out. Anna Kendrick’s Beca has the only one of substance: she starts an internship at a recording studio and is challenged by a stereotypically tough studio boss (Keegan-Michael Key) to find her identity as a music producer. It unfolds in predictable fashion, however, and doesn’t get the time and attention that Beca got in the first film. Instead, Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy graduates into a co- leading role of sorts, and we get a flat love story between her and Bumper (Adam DeVine). New girl Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) also gets lots of screen time as a “passing of the torch” of sorts, and her character is so awkward it’s impossible to tell if we’re supposed to care about her or laugh at her.

Cannon’s script is more hit-and-miss this time around, likely because of the number of recycled jokes and the fact that some of the character quirks have gotten stale. Because the plot doesn’t really create many moments for situational humor, most of the laughs in “Pitch Perfect 2” have to come from the dialogue and performances. The humor remains awkward and brazen, but like with most comedy sequels, the lack of novelty is noticeable.

The music of “Pitch Perfect 2” plays a much bigger role, in the sense that songs get more screen time because the story doesn’t demand as much attention. Although you could just listen to the soundtrack instead of watching the whole movie for them, the killer arrangements up the entertainment factor significantly. For example, we’re supposed to hate Das Sound Machine, but even replacing all the “theys” with “zay” when they sing can’t change the fact that their performances of “Uprising” by Muse and a mashup of Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” and “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled are just flat-out cool (by music nerd standards).

An effort to make “Pitch Perfect 2” into something of substance (on par with the original) would’ve been appreciated, but it also would’ve run the risk of taking itself too seriously. Instead, we get an entire movie that could’ve been set to the song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” It’s a silly romp with familiar characters and a writer, director and producers who essentially do a victory lap granted them by the surprise success of their once original idea.


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