As I watched Pitch Perfect 2, I found myself wondering, Why do so many Hollywood studios make sequels to movies that don’t need sequels? Why not make something original instead — especially if there isn’t a good idea for a second movie?
Okay, okay, I’m just messing with you. We’ve all been around this block once or twice.
But it actually is difficult to write a review of Pitch Perfect 2. First you have to think up and reject a bunch of adjectives and nouns to pair with “a ca,” as in, “It’s a ca-lousy” or “It’s a ca-piece of shit.”
Then you have to spell out — because critics are reporters, too — what happens in the movie, which is hard (and reads boringly) when it’s the same thing that happened in the last one except without the laughs.
So this is the plot. The college female a cappella group the Barden Bellas is riding high when there’s a major public gross-out embarrassment and they lose their stature. Then they have to figure out how to work harmoniously together and “find their sound” again so they can win the big competition against another group that has made them feel small.
I just went back and read my review of the first Pitch Perfect. You can read it, too, if you want. I sound really happy. It’s like I’d seen something that made my life better and I was enjoying telling people about it. Gosh, that seems like such a long time ago. Did you know I put Pitch Perfect on my year-end ten-best list?
I’m guessing Kay Cannon thought hard about whether to write the script, but that the offer was for more money than she or anyone in her family had made in their entire lives put together. Then she probably had three days to write it, which is why she settled for lines like, “This place is all about booby traps and guess what? Boobs should never be trapped.” She’d have taken that out of a second draft, thinking, It was worth a try.
There are good ideas that needed another pass, like the way Beca (Anna Kendrick) is so overcome with a sense of inferiority when she confronts the Bellas’ new nemesis, the tall blonde leader of a German a cappella group, that she blurts out compliments instead of insults. She should work on that one with Amy Schumer — it could play.
I’m also guessing Kendrick did not want to come back. I’ve never seen her so flat-out bad — distracted, depressed, conviction-less. Anna, I still adore you, but you should have tried to make it work. I doubt you’d have succeeded, but I’d have lit you a memorial candle and saluted. I don’t want to be writing this goddamn review, either, and I’m not getting Hollywood sequel money.
Brittany Snow gives it the old college try as Chloe. And Hailee Steinfeld, who plays a freshman newcomer and is for all intents and purposes the protagonist, has pep and heart. I guess that’s also true of real freshman, who come in full of pep and heart and have to deal with seniors who say, “Yeah, whatever” and have one eye on the exit.
Rebel Wilson’s “Fat Amy” had good, tart comebacks in the last one, but this time they’re not funny, so she’s more like “Fat Mean Amy.” Since the springboard for the plot is Fat Amy accidentally “going commando” in front of President Obama and his family, I can understand her not smiling much. Her best line is about sleeping with all the Wiggles.
Keegan-Michael Key plays the boss at the recording studio where Beca has an internship and scores by underplaying. If I’m ever a boss criticizing an underling who can’t make a piece of equipment function, I hope I sound as reasonable when I say, “Do you understand, everything in my life works so I need this to work, too.”
The director this time is different: actress Elizabeth Banks, who co-produced Pitch Perfect and repeats her role as one of the ill-matched competition commentators (with John Michael Higgins as her boorish partner). I don’t normally do this, but she should have paid attention to my review of the original: “Director Jason Moore is a Broadway hand (Avenue Q) who knows how to sell a number without assaulting the audience ... ” Then she’d have thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t assault the audience either.” She over-edits the musical numbers and underlines the jokes with pushy close-ups. It’s even possible some of Cannon’s more cringe-worthy quips would have played without the campy overemphasis. We’ll never know.
Against the odds, the Bellas’ climactic number in Pitch Perfect 2 is excellent, so the audience goes out on a relatively happy note. I’d have preferred a final number as a ca-piece of shit as the rest of the movie to guarantee there’d be no Pitch Perfect 3. Because writing this review is bringing me down.