Jul 13, 2015

[Movies] Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

So when the first Pitch Perfect movie hit, it managed to be quite the brilliant success, that sort of reminds me of when Glee first TV it felt rather different from everything else. I generally appreciated the movie as well given my own love for Anna Kendrick, but I don't think I quite went as crazy for it as many other did. What was immediately apparent was that the movie was pretty much fated for a sequel as Hollywood is not one to easily give up on a money-making franchise.

So now we have Pitch Perfect 2, although I realize that I forgot to write a review for the first movie for some reason. It's not that I didn't like it but I didn't absolutely love it either. And I wasn't expecting much from the sequel since the given how quickly it was put together, it certainly felt like a "strike while the iron is hot" sort of Hollywood deal. And while this does not mean that I think all speedy sequels are bad, I do tend to support the notion that better movies take a bit more effort. And yes, I know 3 years between movies doesn't feel that "short" a time, but I really think it can be, especially when you think about the quality of the output here.

And while this sequel was still more okay that horrible, it definitely suffered from a lot of the problems of a cash cow sequel that tried to focus a bit too much on the joys of the first movie without introducing too many new aspects into this second one.

Synopsis: Pitch Perfect 2 is the sequel to the 2012 movie Pitch Perfect, which should probably surprise no one. It was directed by Elizabeth Banks  with a screenplay by Kay Cannon.

The movie begins with our heroines, the Barden Bellas, performing for the President himself for his birthday party. But the whole number ends as a disaster when Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) suffers a harness-related wardrobe malfunction that reveals far too much. Thus the Bellas are then suspended from performing in any collegiate a capella competition or showcases nor can they recruit new members to their group for some reason. The only way out is to possible win the world championships in order to get the group reinstated.

However, Bella leader Beca (Anna Kendrick) is somewhat distracted by an internship program she gets into with a recording studio - something that she keeps secret from the rest of the group for no particular reason. Then in a loophole moment that circumvents the ban on recruiting, the Bellas are approached by freshman Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld), who is a sort of legacy Bella since her mother was part of the a capella group when she was in college. What is distinct is that Emily sings an original song rather than a cover, although actually she's singing "Flashlight" in a world that does not have Jessie J or something.

This second movie seems to have fallen into the trap that many sequels end up in where the script strongly favored those characters that were determined to be most popular in the first movie, thus leading to somewhat uneven character development. As you go through this whole production, most of the story is about Beca and her various arcs, which is to be expected. But to contrast this, we barely see anything of the other Bellas except when taken as a group or when we focus on Fat Amy as a source of comedy. The new character Emily got a bit more focus since they sort of had to explain who she was, although she ended up sharing a lot of scenes with Benji (Ben Platt) since he immediately developed a crush on her. Ironically, Benji had little to no character development, which was generally the case for the boys in this story.

The sub-plot involving Beca's internship felt like a weird distraction to the plot and not really something that contributed anything of value. It was a secret for the sake of being a secret and it will never become truly clear to me why she had to hide this from her "sisters" at all, despite the fact that she was actually the leader of the group. We also see that most of the group were apparently freshmen when they joined in the first movie since most of them were still around in this sequel.

The main plot was predictably convoluted and suddenly we have the Bellas facing global competition, although in truth it was largely focused on Das Sound Machine (DSM), who are presented as your stereotypical crazy European singing group, but not quite Eurovision-levels of crazy. I think we saw more diverse competition in the first movie compared to this one.

The rest of the movie is just a weird rehash of events from the first one. We got different a capella groups performing in a weird undergroup a capella song battle in some arbitrary location. We had Fat Amy being all obnoxious strong female character stereotype together with sexual banter exchanges with Bumper (Adam DeVine). Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) still can't speak above a whisper, although this is only really stressed in one scene. The writers vaguely remembered to cite Stacie (Alexis Knapp) for being "too sexy" again. And we have a weird host of cameos thrown in for fun.

I get it, Pitch Perfect 2 was never meant to be a movie that changes your life or anything momentous like that. Despite that, I was still hoping for a bit more despite it being a sequel, and unfortunately it still played to all the usual problems that we expect to see in sequels. Thus the movie only gets 3 strange team-building exercises depicted in a montage out of a possible 5.

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