Back in 2012, I doubt anyone anticipated the enormous cultural impact ‘Pitch Perfect’ would have. A modest little comedy riffing on the basic structure of the ‘Glee’ phenomenon, it came seemingly out of nowhere and dived headfirst into popular culture. And like any unexpected success, it now has a sequel. I hadn’t seen ‘Pitch Perfect’ when it came out, but when I knew I would be seeing the second one I decided to fix that. Within minutes I totally understood the appeal - ‘Pitch Perfect’ is silly, funny, irreverent, catchy, clever and quietly subversive. Sure, it isn’t a perfect film, but there’s just so much to love about it, and I have to admit, a little part of me was insanely excited see the return of the Barden Bellas. Unfortunately it looks like the Bellas should have just stayed exactly where they were.
After an enormous embarrassment during a presidential performance, the Bellas are suspended from the national competition for three years. Unable to compete or audition new members, the club risks disappearing completely. There is a loophole though - as reigning champions for three years, they can still compete in the World A-Capella Championships, and if they can win the title (something no American team has ever done) the Bellas get reinstated. Problem is, Beca (Anna Kendrick) has started an internship with a major recording studio, and her attention is being split between the club and carving herself a career after college.
Everything that made ‘Pitch Perfect’ such a wonderfully endearing film is either lazily recycled or completely ignored in ‘Pitch Perfect 2’. All the most popular elements of the first, like the Cup Song (minus a cup), the a-capella riff-off and clever asides from Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) are either repeated verbatim or overused to the point of tedium. All of it feels artificial, and even worse, the wonderful supporting characters from the first get pretty much pushed to the wayside. Everything about this film suggests the team behind it had a surface understanding of what had made the first so popular, and rather than building on the beautiful work of the original, are simply ticking the boxes for the easiest outcome. New characters are lazily constructed and obvious, the humour is tepid and banal, and you get the feeling the narrative was just a piece of tracing paper lain over the first and copied directly. Without the wonderful characters, the irreverent humour and the tremendous heart, the predictable story beats begin to annoy in a way they never had before. It also doesn’t help that there just isn’t very much going on in ‘Pitch Perfect 2’.The central conceit is predictable but strong, and offers lots of potential to explore the relationships and tensions within the Bellas. What we get instead is about as creative as a colour-by-numbers drawing. When a film needs multiple slow-motion sequences of parties, people swimming and pillow fights to fill the time, you know it’s in terrible trouble.
Everything that made ‘Pitch Perfect’ such a wonderfully endearing film is either lazily recycled or completely ignored in ‘Pitch Perfect 2’.
It also doesn’t help that, on a technical level, ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ doesn’t even seem to be trying. The cinematography might be flashier, but it isn’t inventive, and the editing has absolutely no fair to it. Everything about the film stinks of a cash-in without any thought. And don’t even get me started about the product placement in this film. There are points where it reaches ‘Transformers’ levels, so much so that’s it’s actually distracting. What Universal have done is taken a gorgeous underground hit and turned it into a mainstream commodity without any substance whatsoever. Of course Anna Kendrick is great, and when she isn’t being over-used Rebel Wilson hits some great points as Fat Amy, but I shouldn’t be walking out of a Pitch Perfect film not humming the music or still laughing at the jokes.
Of course ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ will be a big success and lots of people will love it, but to be honest, it doesn’t deserve either of those things. This is one of those sequels that gives sequels a bad name. It’s lazy, uninventive, unimaginative and dull, and drops the ball on everything that made the first film so great. The comparison to ‘Glee’ seems so much more apt, as like the TV series, this second outing does nothing more than cash in on the success of the first without actually considering what made it so great in the first place. But perhaps the biggest disappointment of ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ is that, in the end, it just isn’t that much fun. And if it can’t fulfil that basic requirement, what’s the point of it existing at all?