Although I’m a “man man man man manly man”… I must confess to really liking the original “Pitch Perfect”. Tuneful, funny, quirky and with a knock-out cup routine (that took me ages to perfect).
On the back of those high expectations, Pitch Perfect 2 is not Aca-awful… but it is a big disappointment.
The college acapella group the “Barden Bellas” are riding high following their national championship win in the first film. They are performing to POTUS and the first lady when tragedy strikes in the form of a wardrobe malfunction of the worst kind by Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson). As a result of “Muffgate”, the Bellas are personae non gratae on the singing circuit, and their only way back is to win the worldwide championships in Copenhagen – something no American group has ever done because “they all hate us” (LOL). Besides anything else, standing in their way is the brilliant but bombastic Das Sound Machine whose militaristic take on Acapella makes them formidable opponents. And priorities for Beca (Anna Kendrick) are elsewhere as she is trying to impress her way into the music business as an intern for a professional recording studio.
Amy is also somewhat distracted by the love interest of Bumper (Adam DeVine) – mysteriously back on campus as a security guard (who said a degree couldn’t land you a great job??).
New to the scene is Emily (Hailee Steinfeld of “True Grit” fame) whose mother used to be a Bella in her day and who is desperate to get into the group. She’s a good singer, which is a good job since as all the other Bellas are graduating she may be singing solo in Pitch Perfect 3! (As this film made nearly three times its budget in its opening weekend that – unfortunately – seems assured).
The film launches with an hilarious opening (featuring Barrack and Michelle Obama in shot: one can only assume their kids are rabid PP fans in order to get that permission) and ends with a triumphant and feel-good performance at the end. It’s the filling of this sandwich that really doesn’t satisfy.
The ponderous and multi-threaded plot (by Kay Cannon and Mickey Rapkin) is all over the place and relies on randomly engineered recreations of the things that worked well in the first film. This includes a sing-off competition that tries hard but fails to live up to the ‘playground’ original. (It is hosted by an unnamed “Rip-Off host” who, before the film launched, was falsely reported as being Billy Joel; although similar in appearance he is actually musician/actor David Cross).
A lack-lustre story could be forgiven if the script was tight and hilarious. Unfortunately, many of the jokes fall completely flat; for me there were only a handful of laugh-out loud moments in the film. The love story between Fat Amy and Bumper is wildly unconvincing and the comic potential of the Kraftwerk-styled German group – led by Aryan-like duo of Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) and Krämer (Flula Borg) – is left un-mined.
John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks return as competition commentators John and Gail, and whilst some of their shtick is funny, other comments (particularly those from John) step over the line into racism and xenophobia.
Another gripe is the music used. In the first film, nearly all the acapella songs were staple classics and instantly recognisable. Whilst this theme recurs in the ‘Rip off’ contest, the rest of the songs are (to me anyway) unrecognisable. Much is made of the ‘new song’ (“Flashlight”, now a single by Jessie J) but most of the other songs in the film might as well have been new!
Elizabeth Banks (Gail in the film) directs, and what with this and a segment of “Movie 43” on her resume perhaps she should stick to acting as the day job. By the way, watch out for the most unconvincing backdrop of Copenhagen you have ever seen, before the action swiftly moves back to an anonymous ‘field’ in ‘Denmark’ for the finale!
In summary: a tired re-tread of a much-loved original, which without the feel-good finale would be subject to a much lower rating.
Fad Rating: FFf.