Pitch Perfect 2 takes the formula from the first one and reuses most of it to an effective degree. While not as good as the first movie, this sequel does much to catch the magic and chemistry of the first one. After a disastrous performance in front of the President, the Bellas must recapture their chemistry and magic in order to win the World A Cappella tournament so that they can be reinstated as champions and regain their… honor? I’m not entirely sure. Maybe it’s their pride, I’m a little fuzzy on that front. Nonetheless, Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), newcomer Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) along with most of the other members from the first movie must band together, rediscover their sound and harmony and win the day. Along the way there are more than a few subplots and runarounds that don’t all quite work but do a good job of filling time and amusing the audience.
The central thrust of the movie, the group’s goal of winning the world championships works for the most part. We don’t get a real clear reason for why the Bella’s are all of a sudden dysfunctional but their suspension and deal to win the Worlds works as a reason for them to all work together and not just fall apart. It’s made all the better by the introduction of their nemesis in this movie, Das Sound Machine, which is a German super group led by Kommissar and Pieter (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and Flula Borg). DMS might just be the greatest nemesis in a movie outthis or any year. Am I being hyperbolic? Yes. Am I wrong? Barely. DMS brings strong German accents and precise choreography that works so much better then it should. They are intimidating and extremely silly all at once and their interactions with the Bella’s are among the movies highlights. Watching Beca become flabbergasted and tongue tied by Kommissar’s mere presence is hilarious.
The performances are for the most part good to great. Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson are strong and show all the skill and charisma they have as two of the more talented actors working right now. Wilson’s physical comedy is masterful and she has a really good understanding of her body and what’s funny without ever coming off as the victim of her own jokes or inherent oddness.
Anna Kendrick reigns supreme in all things. That is all.
While the rest of the cast is good, at least as much as they were last time, none of them connect or entertain like they did last time. Beca’s boyfriend, a strong supporting character last time is barely in this one and the rest of the returning characters simply fail to make an impression. Despite missing with the audience, they still have a lot of lines and stuff to do on the screen. The new addition to the Bellas, Emily, is a fine character but the movie makes the choice to make her a kind of co-POV character with Beca and that’s ultimately a mistake. She is a little bland and a little underdeveloped to really be able to hold her own. She has a romance story with Benji, the magic loving oddball from the first movie that has zero chemistry and just kept going and going. I enjoyed their flirting to a degree, but they get a whole romantic payoff scene before the final performance that simply does not.
Beyond the core performances and Das Sound Machine, the rest of the movie underperforms in my opinion. The humor is very odd this time around. There are a lot of race based jokes and insults that come off as confusing much more than funny or even shocking. One of the Bellas, a woman of Latin descent, seems to exist simply so that she can bring down the mood by reminding everybody that she was had a horrible childhood full of death, disease and drug running. If the jokes were funnier, or maybe better timed maybe it works, but they aren’t, so it doesn’t. I get what she is doing; she’s poking fun at the zero stakes of this movie. But it comes off so weirdly and out of tune with the rest of the movie that it’s more annoying then knowingly eye-winky to the audience. And Fat Amy makes several ginger jokes that completely miss the mark. I’m not sure if people actually make ginger jokes, but the writers of this movie seem to think so.
The other big disappointment for me in this movie is the music. The first movie had some legitimately great mashups that work on their own merits outside from the movie but this one has very little of that. DMS is very entertaining, but I don’t think I would listen to their songs away from this movie. The movie makes a point several times that the characters want to move beyond mashups in their music careers, and I get that from a character development point of view, but this is a movie. A MOVIE! I want music that entertains, I want mashups that work and I got none of that this time around. The big finale number is actually a new song that the Bellas ‘wrote’! Good Grief, why!? In terms of music, the rift off, including several Green Bay Packers players, is the lone bright spot.
While I enjoyed myself just fine watching this movie, I was ultimately disappointed. The first one had such magic and charm and this movie has very little of that. I know it’s not fair to compare movies to other movies, but in this case, since it is a series, I think it’s fine. Pitch Perfect 2 is a completely average film that does not live up to its predecessor or the abilities of its actors. It made a ton of money though, so they will be making a third one. I hope it does a better job then this one.