Back in the very earliest weeks of Oh! That Film Blog, one of my first reviews was a brief and rather pessimistic take on the first Pitch Perfect movie at the end of 2012. Though I did not appear to particularly enjoy the film upon its release, several repeat viewings in the intervening years have softened my opinion on the picture and I have come to rather enjoy it for the fluffy fun that it is. Though only performing modestly at the box office, the popularity of Pitch Perfect became something of a mainstream phenomenon and far outranked it’s initial financial takings, a sequel was almost inevitable. Skip to 2015 and here we have it, the much anticipated and eagerly awaited follow up to the surprise hit of 2012.
You’d think that I sequel making over twelve times as much money in it’s opening weekend would be twelve times as good as it’s predecessor, right? Wrong. Pitch Perfect 2 drops the audience straight back in to the lives, loves and laughs of the Barden Bellas as the majority of the characters enter in to their final year of college. Determined to go out with a bang but unjustly banned from domestic competition due to an unfortunate flashing incident involving Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and Barack Obama and the Kennedy Center Honors, the all girl a cappella group choose to attend the World Championships as the only way of grabbing some silverware in their senior year. Becca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick) is at the forefront of the group yet again, but this time finds herself torn between committing to the Bellas and progressing in her new part time job at a recording studio. The crucial problem with Pitch Perfect 2 is that the story is nowhere near as entertaining, funny or charming as the first time we were introduced to this set of characters and circumstances. New comic opposition is set up for the ladies in the form of German champions Das Sound Machine, but the cliche filled dialogue and banter between the two sets of nationalities is more cringeworthy than cackle-worthy. The same brand of humour is applied to the sequel, but the lack of innovation and progression results in a case of treading water rather than repeated success. Crucially, whereas the songs and performances from the first film felt fun and fresh, the musical set pieces in Pitch Perfect 2 are, on the whole, neither catchy nor particularly memorable. In fact, I am struggling to remember a single performance which is certainly not the case with regards to the original. Overall, the film is not musically strong enough to thrill in that sense or humorous enough to rely on it’s comic elements, instead offering what feels like a watered down, rushed and half hearted version of its far superior older sister.
In terms of cast, it is pretty much as you were with the notable addition of Hailee Steinfeld as new Bella recruit Emily Junk. Having enjoyed Steinfeld immensely in True Grit, Steinfeld fails to make any major impact here and the character of Emily serves purely as a pathway to continuing the Pitch Perfect franchise once the senior big hitters have departed. Speaking of the senior big hitters, Anna Kendrick does her best to add a touch of genuine charm and star quality in to the picture but ultimately the material is too weak and her performance, along with the rest of the established names, leads to nothing spectacular. Rebel Wilson is in danger of falling in the Melissa McCarthy shaped hole of making a big, hilarious impact in one film and then not being able to do anything else for the rest of her career. Just as McCarthy never lived up to her performance in Bridesmaids, so Wilson is beginning to become less and less funny with each ‘larger than life’, borderline vulgar performance she is required to give. Of all the Bellas, perhaps the most sincere performance is given by Brittany Snow as Chloe, who through the narrative comes to terms with her impending leap in to real adulthood and her story provides some of the more earnest portions of the film. Flula Borg and Birgitte Hjort Sorensen provide some light entertainment as the German co-leaders of Das Sound Machine, but their tendency towards ‘silly’ humour is little too broad for my taste.
Ultimately, one can’t help but feel that Pitch Perfect 2 is a movie that never really had to happen. The unexpected success of the original picture always meant that a sequel was going to be in the works, but the problem with this particular sequel is that there was no clear or obvious direction in which to take the overall story. In terms of cinematic history and record, congratulations and props are to be given to Elizabeth Banks for making the highest grossing debut for a first time feature director, but unfortunately that gross will always asterisked by the fact that the film very much rode on the coattails of it’s much better predecessor. The picture is by no means dreadful, a large percentage of my screening seemed to be having a marvellous time, but in comparison to Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2 falls largely and overwhelmingly flat.