The first Pitch Perfect was innocuous and mildly funny. I laughed a few times, and the singing was almost spiritual. Now the sequel is here, and it’s as funny as this year’s Ant-Man, which is to say it’s not funny at all.
I think one movie has filled my quota of a cappella harmonies. I can’t take any more. I admire a cappella singing with a zeal, but when a bunch of teenagers get together, hopping around a stage in front of thousands, humming and zooming and popping and whatnot, the focus isn’t so much on the talent of the singers as it is on the elaborate grandeur of the setup and payoff. Admit it, when you watched the performances in the first film, you weren’t marvelling at the songs; you were gawking at the incredible dance routines. You saved the song appreciation for when the soundtrack came out.
I don’t even buy the fact that a cappella has the clout to draw such massive hordes of raving fanatics. Or maybe I’ve just been living in a cave where a cappella still means familiar quartets in intimate settings. Please tell me — does a cappella dominate the musical landscape as it does in these two movies? If it does, I stand corrected. Pitch Perfect and its sequel will forever live in my memory as realistic, accurate dramas. If it doesn’t, I believe these movies should be classified as fantasies and everyone’s money returned.
Most of the Bellas are back, with the exception of Aubrey (Anna Camp), the uptight ringleader. Actually, scratch that, Aubrey is in this film, but she doesn’t do much singing. Graduation is imminent; Beca (Anna Kendrick) is freaking out about what’s going to happen next. Is she going to find a path in life? Or is a cappella all she’ll ever know? Perhaps a cappella can be her path? Who knows. Who cares, really.
So what she does is join an internship programme at a local music production house that is run like Google in 1944. She delivers coffee to the employees and sits in gleefully at board meetings and recording sessions. Get this, Snoop Dogg is doing a Christmas album, and he’s worried it’s not going to stand out from, say, the Christmas album released by Dean Martin in the 1960s. Mr Dogg, you’re a rapper with a Christmas album. Think about it.
Elsewhere, the Bellas have been disqualified by Barden University after a catastrophic performance in front of President Obama redefines the definition of “open for business”. Chloe (Brittany Snow), the new leader, is devastated. A cappella is her life! She’s already postponed graduation twice because she’s afraid of leaving the group. Now the college doesn’t even recognise them! That’s okay. The Bellas decide to take on the World Championships in Copenhagen, a global tournament where a cappella troupes from all over compete for the grand prize, which is — I don’t know.
The ones to beat are Das Sound Machine, the German superpower that’s an uncanny cross between the drones in Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and the electronic band Kraftwerk. I make a false comparison, however, because DSM covers not a single German song throughout the entire film. I’d have served them better angling them next to The Supremes. Anyway, the Bellas travel to Copenhagen on an invisible budget (since they’re no longer sponsored by their college) and do battle against all sorts of ethnic groups. You know they’re ethnic by the way they’re dressed. Props to the costume department.
Should I tell you who wins?
Pitch Perfect 2 is all bark and no bite. It threatens to wow us with impassioned singing and heartfelt collegiate drama, but ends up accomplishing neither. Yes, the songs are catchy, but we’ve heard them all before. There’s a newcomer, Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), and she’s sort of spunky and fun, but the movie never lets her take off. Instead, she’s constantly overshadowed by her seniors. And boy oh boy, someone please tell me what the two commentators, played by director Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins, are doing in this movie. Higgins is given such crass, misogynistic, racist, sexist lines it’s a wonder he’s able to recite them and still live with himself. Crude humour can be funny, when done right. Higgins, who I am sure knows how to do humour right, seems to have misplaced the vital ace of spades. And now the whole house has come crumbling down.
Best Moment | Umm, no.
Worst Moment | Higgins’ lines.