Sure, Pitch Perfect was girly, cute and an awkward cousin of Glee, but the 2012 comedy had a certain charm to it. Made for a mere $17 million and going on to earn over $111 million worldwide, Pitch Perfect was one of the first female ensemble comedies post-Bridesmaids that worked. It’s humor came from the natural abilities of its young performers, like Anna Kendrick, Anna Camp, Hana Mae Lee, Adam DeVine and scene-stealer Rebel Wilson. The pacing was solid and focused on a linear storyline. Sure, it was predictable and the humor was hit-and-miss, but I’ll take Fat Amy’s workout regiment over Paul Blart waddling around any day of the week..or month…or year…or ever. The bottom line is that Pitch Perfect worked and, like most successful comedies, it has to succumb to a fate worse than nodes on vocal chords….the bloated sequel.
Pitch Perfect 2 takes place three years after the first installment, with the Barden Bellas having won three national a cappella championships and now performing for President Obama on his birthday. After a slight mishap on-stage involving Fat Amy (Wilson) hanging bare (literally), the Bellas are suspended from touring the malls and small auditoriums of the nation. However, if they enter the a capella world championship (yup, that’s a thing too), the suspension will be lifted and their reputation will be redeemed. While most of the Bellas are focused on beating the black-clad German team, Das Sound Machine, Becca (Kendrick) is more focused on succeeding at her new internship at a local record label. On top of that is freshman Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), looking to make her mark with the Bellas that her mother was once a member of. There’s also Fat Amy’s continuing fling with a ca-asshole Bumper (DeVine) and the question of what the Bellas are going to do, win or lose, after they graduate.
Like all comedy sequels desperate to up the ante, Pitch Perfect 2 brings in a crop of cameos and new blood. The likes of David Cross, Katey Sagal, Keegan-Michael Key and even members of the Green Bay Packers are packed in to add star power. Cross works his Tobias Funke shtick to good use, but everyone else is just there to make their daughters happy. It also features more hit-and-miss comic bits, but more of them are misses than hits. For instance, one of the newest Bellas is Flo (Chrissie Fit), a hispanic girl. What’s her character? A hispanic girl making hispanic-related puns about border jumping and whatnot. You get it? She’s foreign, HA! Another common trap of sequels is not sticking to a straight ahead plot. The first film focused on the Bellas trying to build their new sound by singing at competitions. The new film can’t sit still as it bounces between Becca’s internship, Fat Amy’s love life, Emily being awkward and training montages. Most scenes end up either being pointless or falling flat.
But if audiences came for fun mashups of hit songs in energetic fashion, they’ll go home happy. Pitch Perfect 2 features the typical upbeat a cappella mashups of various tunes, including a riff-off like the one in the previous installment. Director Elizabeth Banks brings in various international a cappella groups for the finale, showing how much a cappella has taken over the globe. The tone is light, free-flowing and everyone involved seems to be having a good time. Kendrick and the rest of the Bellas still have a natural, a ca-awkward chemistry that works when they’re together. The movie is not without some laughs, like when Becca and Fat Amy have their moments. Pitch Perfect has excelled at awkward humor, and most of the time it still works. The problem is that there’s just too much filler stuffed in between the moments that matter. The audience will just be waiting for punchlines and vocal bass notes instead of actually caring about anyone involved.
In fact, the problem with Pitch Perfect 2 is illustrated in one scene. In order to compete with the high-octane theatrics of Das Sound Machine, the Bellas perform with glow sticks, light-up hula hoops and pyrotechnics. While trying to put on a bigger and better show, the Bellas fail miserably and the crowd is visibly turned off by all the flashy additions. That’s Pitch Perfect 2 in a nutshell; a movie that thinks putting more in front of an audience means a better show when in reality, it’s just too much nothing and not enough something.
Final Verdict: 2 out of 4 stars