I was astonished last year, that somebody was able to convince me to watch Pitch Perfect. Truly astonished. Everything about the movie screamed, “pop culture bukkake party!” Let’s gather a group of young, good looking actors with the ability to sing, and let let them acapella the hell out of the most popular Top 40 pop songs of the day. Yeah, that’ll make a good movie. You know what? It really… kind of….did. I was perplexed. I actually found myself engaged in the movie; lured in by the geeky sexiness that is Anna Kendrick, the comedic talent that is Rebel Wilson, and a rather unique, acapella reimagination of well known, Top 40 songs. What was even more bewildering, was that this movie offered its characters in a realistic, likable manner. The ensemble cast of characters had just enough empathy and realism to make me stomach, and (I can’t believe I’m admitting this) miraculously accept the world of competitive acapella group singing. That realism, coupled with tangible internal conflicts between individual members of the protagonist acapella group, the Barden Bellas, as well as the conflicts between the other competing groups, was the engine of the first movie, and that chemistry, unlikely as it was, is what made the first movie actually work. Pitch Perfect 2 however, shits all over that.
This sequel is exactly what I was expecting of the first movie. A heaping pile of shit. How idiotic of me for even slightly believing that the producers could miraculously do it right a second time. Of course they wouldn’t. Do they ever? Instead of focusing on what made the first movie work so well in finding an audience (adequate realism, character empathy, conflict, humor, well liked Top 40 music), Universal did what studios do best, and chose spectacle over substance. Every single character was egregiously two dimensional, lacked little, if any, empathy, and at best, had ridiculously shallow character arches.
Pitch Perfect 2 begins with an over produced, skin deep acapela performance by the Bellas, and that tone of the movie never goes away; skin deep & over produced. The truly fun part (if you were a fan) of the first movie, was the utilization of popular pop music, yet, this time around, the songs chosen were far from being universally popular, or even well known. I couldn’t tell you what half the songs’ titles or artists were. Pitch Perfect 2 is as superficial as the pop culture it desperately tried to emulate. What was most disheartening and aggravating to me, was how terribly written the role of Fat Amy was, played by the very funny and talented Rebel Wilson. Pitch Perfect 2 really missed the boat, as it was thought for sure, that the movie would, without question, showcase the young, Australian born actresses’ innate comedic abilities. It had the potential of being a launching pad to a meteoric comedic rise for Rebel, but nope. Not even close. What a let down. The character of Fat Amy was a highlight and arguably the most hilarious part of the first movie, and this is nowhere to be found in the sequel. The results of a really, terrible screenplay filled with stick figure characters that lack substance. The best they do is with Anna Kedricks ‘Beca’ & Hailee Steinfeld’s ‘Emily’, yet, its all still too shallow, as the focus of Pitch Perfect 2 is not on character (nonetheless character developement), but on pomp & circumstance. Unless you’re easily amused by all things sparkly, you will not be deeply invested in any character, and Pitch Perfect 2 will leave, at best, a wonderfully bland taste in your mouth.
As much as the film disappoints, there were several highlights worthy of a nod. John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks reprise their roles as John Smith and Gail Abernathy-McFadden-Feinberger, the self effacing, politically incorrect & racially insensitive TV commentators. They are a comedic tour de force, and they simply deserved much better writing. They provided some really good bust out laughs, yet, at times felt very gimmicky. So does the not so very funny last name, of Abernathy-McFadden-Feinberger. Perfect fodder for unintelligible viewers. I imagine however, that most of the gold between the two, will be evidenced in the deleted scenes and gag reels of the DVD, rather than what was chosen to be in the movie. David Cross was fun to watch in his tiny role of an obsessive, eccentric acappela fan boy, luring the major competing acapella groups to his mansion, for an acapella-off (with the grand prize being a Dave & Buster’s card, worth 42,000 points). That scene is one of only a handful in the movie worth watching. Keegan-Michael Key’s scenes, few as they were, were the only aspect to Pitch Perfect 2, in my estimation, that had any substance, as his character had a pivotal role with Beca and Emily’s characters arches, albeit, shallow as they were. Key’s comedic genius and acting ability shine. His scenes offered all the funny that I had hoped in vain, would be strung throughout this movie. Finally, and ironically, the funniest scene I found myself laughing the most at, was a scene that wasn’t even in the movie. It occurred in the middle of the end credits: Adam DeVine’s character ‘Bumper’ is on stage auditioning for “The Voice.” I’ll spare the spoiler details, just like Universal spared any real entertainment value in producing Pitch Perfect 2. Wait until it comes out on DVD with deleted scenes, featurettes and a gag reel. If there’s any entertainment value that may possibly be salvaged, it will be found there. I certainly wasn’t able to find any in the movie theatre.