Having loved Pitch Perfect, I was quietly apprehensive about its sequel, fearing the notorious sophomore slump. It turned out my concerns weren’t entirely unfounded. With compelling characters and a promising premise, Pitch Perfect 2 had all the makings of a great film. However, half-formed plotlines and some misdirected attempts at comedy made the movie lukewarm at best.
The Bellas are back, and seemingly better than ever. Beca’s (Anna Kendrick) revamp of the all-girl group has resulted in their epic rise to fame. The Bellas are now polished and professional, a far cry from the first movie’s ragtag bunch of performers. Upgraded to their own sorority-style house on campus and so popular that they receive hate mail, Beca and co. have become the It Clique of Barden University. That is, until an embarrassing performance at the Kennedy Center – witnessed by the Obamas, no less – lands them in the doghouse. Now suspended from the a capella circuit, The Bellas set their sights on winning the A Capella World Championships to regain their reputation. The competition brings them head-to-head with high-octane German group Das Sound Machine, sparking a not-so-friendly rivalry.
The make-up of The Bellas was largely unchanged from the first film. Beca and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) were again the stand-out stars. On the sidelines were Stacie (Alexis Knapp), Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) and Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean), as well as the twosome of Jessica-and-Ashley (Kelley Jakle and Shelley Regner). There were also some newcomers to the mix. The new recruits were Flo (Chrissie Fit), a transfer student from Guatemala, and starry-eyed freshman Emily (Hailee Steinfeld). Chloe (Brittany Snow) was revealed to have flunked Russian lit three years in a row to remain part of the Bella Sisterhood. And she wasn’t the only one clinging to college life: former Treblemaker Bumper (Adam DeVine) had found employment as a campus security guard. The group was rounded out by Beca’s boyfriend Jesse (Skylar Astin) and his adorkable roommate Benji (Ben Platt). It was an odd ensemble, yet one that worked remarkably well. Each character brought their individual quirkiness to the table, making for some hilariously zany moments.
With such a strong female cast, it was only logical for Pitch Perfect 2 to be primarily centred on friendship. The Bellas’ group dynamics formed the backbone of the flick, from witty banter to heartfelt discussions over their plans for the future. Unsurprisingly, the movie passed the Bechdel Test with flying colours. Beca and Emily’s friendship was significant in that it symbolised the handing over of the baton from one Bella to another. Although the two had potential, they needed more scenes together in order for their connection to be truly believable.
Of course, that’s not to say that there was no room left for romance. Pitch Perfect ended with Beca and Jesse becoming a couple, and the pair were shown in a supportive relationship two years on. It was refreshing to see the movie deviate from the classic leading-couple-love-triangle in favour of placing focus on other relationships. While Emily and Benji’s interactions were sweet, they lacked the chemistry to become OTP material. It was instead Bumper and Amy who stole the show. Adam DeVine and Rebel Wilson brought an element of complexity to their characters’ relationship, elevating the Bumper/Amy ship from its previous status as a side pairing. The two also provided some of the funniest moments of the movie – their duet alone was worth paying thirteen bucks to see.
The movie’s main drawbacks stemmed from poor and often insensitive writing. The script felt at times as though it were trying too hard, and in doing so fell slightly short of success. Chrissie Fit’s character brought more diversity to the cast, yet seemed to serve no other purpose than to reinforce offensive stereotypes. I’m disappointed to say that Pitch Perfect isn’t above making green card jokes. The overt racism of the movie – though obviously intended to be funny – missed its mark by a long shot. Beca’s internship at a record company was a major storyline that seemed hastily written and lacked resolution. We were left wondering what was to become of Beca’s budding career in the music industry. In fact, we were shown nothing at all of the characters’ endeavours after graduation. For a film so focused on facing the future, Pitch Perfect 2 ultimately failed to deliver.
Despite its pitfalls, the movie had its fair share of redeeming moments. The nostalgia of the campfire scene and The Bellas’ haunting rendition of ‘When I’m Gone’ had me tearing up. Hailee Steinfeld proved to be a valuable addition to the cast, bringing a contagious enthusiasm with her character. And once again, The Bellas’ final performance hammered home the theme of female empowerment in spectacular style. If this movie is to be the last instalment of the series, it was a satisfying send-off for the characters.
Pitch Perfect 2 was relatively good for a sequel, hitting at least some of the right notes. Those who loved Pitch Perfect will find themselves thoroughly immersed in the world of collegiate a capella. However, first-time viewers may not be so impressed, as the movie lacks the spark that made its predecessor such a stand-alone hit.