The pitches are back, and things are….well, pretty much the same as before. Fat Amy is still fat, Beca acts like she’s too cool for school, and Lilly drops non sequiturs that make everybody uncomfortable. This derivative sequel hits the same notes as the first film, but with more (sex/race)ism and less interesting musical arrangements. It’s, shall we say, a ca-uninspired.
The beginning of the film finds the Barden Bellas in a “hairy” situation after a wardrobe malfunction during a performance at a high-profile event puts the future of the group in jeopardy. Their only shot at redemption is to win the international a cappella competition, a feat never achieved by an American team. From there, things go pretty much as you would expect.
Fans who appreciated the original movie’s sense of humor will find plenty to like, but the laughs are much more uneven this time around. Many of the jokes are self-referential, drawing upon familiarity for cheap laughs. Other jokes just fall completely flat in bad taste. There’s a new addition to the Bellas whose sole purpose in the movie is to crack horribly racist jokes about Mexicans. But don’t worry guys, she herself is Hispanic, so it’s perfectly okay. Still, when everyone is firing on all cylinders and the comedy avoids vulgarity, it’s easy to remember why we fell in love with these characters in the first place. David Cross and Keegan-Michael Key in particular, who play two new minor characters, provide some of the best laughs in the entire movie.
For many people, the main appeal of these movies is the music. The choreographed a cappella sequences are back and bigger than ever, but on the second go-around they lack the novelty that made Pitch Perfect feel fresh. You’ll have those moments where you go, “Oh! I remember this song,” but the arrangements almost feel tame in comparison. The best performances come around the midpoint, in the form of an a cappella improv group battle, yet again. Though the scene obviously treads familiar territory, the songs are clever and fun. The rest of the music is, sadly, forgettable.
First-time director Elizabeth Banks clearly has a lot of affection for these characters, but when all of them were essentially one-note cliches in the first place, there’s only so much you can do by stretching a proof of concept to two feature-length movies. Nevertheless, there will likely be a Pitch Perfect 3 in a few years. Part of me feels like this franchise deserves one last chance to go out on top, but then I remembered the words of the great philosopher Fat Amy: “Sometimes I have the feeling I can do crystal meth, but then I think, mmm… better not.”