This review does not contain spoilers.
After a humiliating command performance at Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform.
I have a weakness for films and TV shows about choirs, especially if it’s all leading up to some kind of rousing finale performance. I can’t help it. My family is full of musical nerds so the Pitch Perfect movies were always going to be a hit with us. I think I may have built up Pitch Perfect 2 in my head too much because I left the cinema feeling a little unsatisfied.
Maybe some of my difficulties could be attributed in part to the people around me. I caught the first morning showing of the movie with an audience a bit older than the target demographic, many of whom never reached a laugh out loud moment. Plus we’re in Australia so some of the Americanisms seemed to go over people’s heads.
There were a few things I noticed about the audience’s reactions in particular: Green Bay Packers mean nothing to people outside America; Keegan-Michael Key’s humour fell flat in almost every scene; and while John Michael Higgins’s misogynistic jokes soared to new heights, audiences stopped laughing altogether. I laughed unreservedly whenever I found something funny but more than once I realised I was the only one doing so.
The structure of the movie was not as easy to follow as the first movie, which kindly signposted significant events with title cards. The movie must have been three-quarters through before I realised that Worlds weren’t going to happen until after the senior Bellas graduated. Had I not realised that, I would’ve said the entire movie could have happened over the course of one, maybe two months.
I feel like the snappy and unexpected humour from the first movie was recycled and stressed to the point where it no longer felt original. Few of the characters seem to have evolved in the four years between movies and, strangely enough, the characters with the most development in this movie were Bumper (Adam DeVine) and newcomer Emily/Legacy (Hailee Steinfeld). Even the group conflict with the Bellas and their sound seemed rushed and unconvincing.
Whatever was going on with the characters, I knew I could look forward to some cool musical arrangements and I wasn’t disappointed. Honestly, I was worried whether the Bellas could measure up to their competition and win convincingly—because we all go in expecting our protagonists to win, right? Das Sound Machine deliver consistently strong and dynamic performances which, coupled with their cutting remarks and smooth comedic timing, make them thoroughly enjoyable antagonists.
Pitch Perfect 2 is an enjoyable movie but I didn’t experience the same kind of boundless joy that I did with its predecessor. The plot works. You can count on cameos from all your favourite characters to brighten up the screen. You can enjoy some great a capella covers and even an original song. But if you want that same magic from the original Pitch Perfect movie then you might just want to re-watch it because this one falls a bit short of the mark.