When I first heard that there would be a sequel to Pitch Perfect, I was beyond excited. I saw the first Pitch Perfect three times in theatres and was constantly listening to the soundtrack wherever I went for months. I was definitely a big fan. But that was two years ago. By the time Pitch Perfect 2 came out last week, I was interested, but not overtly enthusiastic about the sequel. I went into the theatre with high hopes to be pulled back into the world of aca-awesome a cappella and was unfortunately disappointed. Pitch Perfect 2 was a decently entertaining film and fans of the original will enjoy it, but it fails to achieve the same standing ovation as its predecessor.
The film opens with the Barden Bellas, led by Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick) and Chloe Beale (Brittany Snow), performing at the Kennedy Center for a crowd that includes President Barack Obama as part of their victory tour after winning three consecutive collegiate a cappella national championships. The Bellas appear to be unstoppable until Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) has a wardrobe malfunction on stage that turns the Bellas into a national disgrace and leads to the team being declared ineligible to compete at the collegiate level. Seeking a last shot at redemption before they graduate, the Bellas set a new goal— to win the world a cappella championship at the end of the year, a feat no American team has ever accomplished. Along the way the group faces challenges as they try to both work together as a team and defeat their main rival— German a cappella group Das Sound Machine.
The plot remains fairly similar to the original, but raises the stakes to an international level. This leads to bigger musical performances and bigger comedic situations that will leave die-hard fans of the original satisfied, but for anyone looking for a complex story, Pitch Perfect 2 only goes surface deep. The screenplay manages to create a challenge the team needs to overcome, but the stakes never seem that high. We all know the Barden Bellas will win the international competition; even the characters themselves don’t seem too concerned about it. In addition to that, the characters are only given minor developments and much of their screen time only serves to reiterate what viewers already know about them. The film relies heavily on cheep laughs that seem like déjà vu. Fat Amy continues to tell fat jokes, Lilly continues to quietly deliver one-liners, and Stacy continues to be overly sexual. While the jokes were strong the first time, the second time doesn’t create the same impact. However, some fans will be glad to see supporting characters getting more screen time, even if there isn’t much new development to their stories.
One of the few fresh things about the film was the addition of freshman Emily Junk (played charmingly by Hailee Steinfeld), who joins the Bellas as a legacy member. However, so much focus is put on following a familiar, formulaic approach to the characters and story we already know that Emily comes across less as a fully-developed member of the Bellas and more as a way to potentially continue the franchise when the other characters graduate at the end of the film. I am excited to see what Hailee Steinfeld will likely bring to the role in the future, but wish her character had been better fleshed out in this film.
Screenwriter Kay Cannon recognized what worked for viewers in the original breakout hit and tried too hard to recapture those same elements. There was nothing fresh, new, or surprising about this film. I wanted to learn more about the characters and world I fell in love with in 2012, but the film never let me. While the original film expertly blended romance, comedy, and music, with a story of self-discovery, Pitch Perfect 2 didn’t even make an attempt at combining these elements to appeal to a wide, varied audience. The film was made for fans of the original, and those fans will be satisfied, but the film probably won’t appeal as strongly to casual fans. It’s a decent sequel (filled with an impressive array of cameos) that purposely appeals to its loyal, established fanbase, but in the process loses some of the heart that made its predecessor so groundbreaking.