“Pitch Perfect” was a plucky little musical comedy from 2012 that followed the adventures of an all-female college a cappella group. It only made $65 million at the domestic box office, but it has since taken on more fans thanks to endearing characters, enduring humor, and a popular soundtrack. These new fans came out in droves this past weekend, when “Pitch Perfect 2” opened to $70 million, more than the original did in its entire run.
The new film follows the Barden University Bellas during most of the members’ senior year. Aspiring music producer Beca (Anna Kendrick) has an internship at a record label. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) needs to make a decision about her future with her boyfriend Bumper (Adam Devine). Chloe (Brittany Snow), a senior in the first movie, is in her seventh year of college, unable to move on. The sole incoming member is Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), a freshman trying to live up to the legacy set by her mother (Katey Sagal) as a Bella decades ago.
That decades-long legacy of the Bellas may be coming to an end. The group is banned from competition after an embarrassing performance in front of President Obama. Frankly the performance is embarrassing enough given the song selection of “Timber” and “Wrecking Ball,” but then Fat Amy makes a gaffe that really gets them in trouble. Never fear, there’s a loophole that allows them to compete in the World Championships, and if they win there, they’re reinstated. So all they have to do is be the best college a cappella group in the world.
This is actually easier than it sounds. Almost every other team decides to cover a lesser Journey song (seriously, we couldn’t get more variety for the World Championships?) and their main competition from Germany does a Fall Out Boy song that needs a pile of pyro to seem interesting. I was ready for the Bellas to knock it out of the park and then they choose one of my least favorite Beyonce songs (thankfully the performance is a medley, but even then they use a tactic that got a team disqualified in the first movie, if the rules are different for this one competition the movie should say so). In the first movie, there were about a hundred variations on the line “we’re never going to get to Nationals with a song selection like that” and now here the teams make one pathetic song choice after another.
As for the humor, there are some hits and a lot of misses. The highlight of the film is a scrimmage of sorts between five teams (that is, four a cappella teams and a bizarre fifth team from another field) that allows for some fun choices. Fat Amy steals the show with a rendition of Pat Benatar’s “We Belong,” now officially the go-to song for comedic makeout scenes. It’s the spoken jokes that are rough. There seems to be a need to go for shock value in the script and it doesn’t pay off. We get a lot of cheap jokes about gender, race, sexuality, and random weirdness that at best don’t work and at worst are downright mean.
At least the main characters in “Pitch Perfect 2” are as likeable as ever, even if the some of the minor ones seem to have been downgraded to one-note stereotypes. At least some of the musical performances are entertaining, even though they definitely should have chosen some different songs. And at least this movie is a better female-geared comedy than “Hot Pursuit,” even though I would have preferred to see both films get trounced by “Mad Max: Fury Road” which has a terrific female lead in Charlize Theron and action sequences that live up to the well-publicized hype. That film is good for at least Three Stars out of Five, while this one is merely good for…
Two Stars out of Five.
“Pitch Perfect 2” is rated PG-13 for innuendo and language. Its running time is 115 minutes.