Released in 2012, the original “Pitch Perfect” was a surprise hit. It was charming, genuinely hilarious in spots, fun throughout and featured Anna Kendrick, who is delightful.
However, the success of the film seems to have obligated the creators into a sequel, and the resulting film is forced, frequently wildly unfunny and boring in spots, but it still thankfully features Kendrick, who continues to be delightful.
The sequel picks up the story three years after the original, and the Barden Bellas — the all-female a cappella singing group from the previous installment — are now three-time national a cappella champions, which is apparently an actual thing that exists.
After an opening performance in which Fat Amy (an underused and criminally unfunny Rebel Wilson) flashes her vagina at President Obama (but, you know, in the funny way), the group is stripped of its title and suspended from competition for a year. Except that they are then allowed to compete in the a cappella World Championships (again, a genuinely real thing, as it turns out), so it is a pretty arbitrary punishment.
The Bellas’ major foil for this round is Das Sound Machine, a German a cappella team whose size seems to grow and shrink as necessary and whose only defining characteristics are “singing” and “German accents.”
The sequel features a slew of characters returning from the original, with additions like Hailee Steinfield playing Emily, the daughter of a former Bella, who joins the group as a new recruit. But while most of the faces are familiar to fans of the original, the sequel robs them of most of their charm. Instead of focusing on what made each individual character quirky and interesting in her own way, most of the secondary characters have been reduced to one-note caricatures with no substance and one recurring joke each. But the biggest sin the film commits is in the treatment of Wilson’s character. In the original film, Wilson serves as a positive, unrepentant example of confidence in the face of societal norms. Even her nickname, “Fat Amy,” is self-ascribed as a way of telling the haters to fuck off. In the sequel, however, Amy has been completely neutered. As mentioned above, the whole story kicks off with Amy as the butt of a joke, and at no point does she turn it around and own the situation.
Elizabeth Banks, who both produced and played a small role in the original film, returns to direct the second installment. Banks is a talented comedic actress and probably a fine human being, but she exhibits little to no actual talent as a director, as “Pitch Perfect 2” is plagued by pacing issues and questionable decision-making. One scene in particular, featuring cameos by David Cross and the Green Bay Packers, comes from out of nowhere, does nothing to advance the plot, and just as quickly is brushed aside and never spoken of again. Finally, all too frequently, the film resorts to crude, sexist or offensive jokes in anemic attempts to give the film some edge.
There is, thankfully, one thing the sequel manages to get very right: the music. Perhaps the biggest surprise to come out of the original “Pitch Perfect” was the quality of the musical numbers, which were captivating and thoroughly pleasurable to watch. “Pitch Perfect 2” at very least manages to get those — ahem — notes right, as the music in the sequel is so good and the performances so fun that the movie even managed to make Fallout Boy’s thoroughly detestable “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” entertaining. CV