Three years have gone by since the last Pitch Perfect outing. The Barden Bellas have since become national a cappella champions and are preparing to go on tour. Things are going pretty well — that is, until a major performance for none other than President Obama. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) experiences a wardrobe malfunction, making a mockery of the Bellas and stripping them of their national title. Their tour is cancelled, and the group is left with one hope: if they win the World Championships in Copenhagen, they can regain their status as a cappella champs.
At the same time, the majority of the Bellas are in their senior year. Beca (Anna Kendrick), the group’s senior leader, lands an internship at a recording studio but is afraid of telling her group. Fat Amy strikes up a romance with Bumper (Adam DeVine). Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) is introduced as a college freshman. Between winning the World Championships and working on school, the Bellas will have to step up their game and find their Bella harmonies to get back on top.
As an a cappella fanatic, I could not wait to see how this sequel would follow up to its predecessor. In fact, the first movie motivated me to join Regent’s very own a cappella group, First Edition. Yet with everything going on, there is a ”chunkiness” to the story that creates an unbalanced ebb and flow. Some portions are hilarious and have great timing. But there are also times when scenes will drag on and on. With four main plotlines, the transition between stories often feels forced. It made the movie seem aimlessly scattered without a strong structure.
Not all was bad, however — this sequel’s music definitely takes it up a notch. The arrangements are impressive as they are intricate. The beat boxer in Das Sound Machine—the Bellas’ German competition—is undeniably amazing as he mimics electronic beats and synths. Even their choreography has improved tenfold. One of my favorite musical parts had to be the a cappella “riff-off.” The mash-ups and transitions between the songs are seamless and musically strategic, especially when dealing with key changes. Overall, I appreciate the amount of work put into the music, making sure it was modern and well thought-out.
What I also liked was the amount of cameos in the movie. President Obama and his wife make an appearance in the beginning. David Cross and Green Bay Packer Clay Matthews take part in the a cappella “riff off.” Keegan Michael-Key’s role as the hilarious song producer is on point. Snoop Dog even contributes to the hilarity. And well known a cappella groups Pentatonix and The Filharmonic briefly perform. Famous faces literally appear left and right throughout the movie.
Perhaps one of the aspects that worked for me was the one-liners delivered by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins. Banks and Higgins act as the announcers of all a cappella events, making commentary on performances. During their banter, they make remarks that frequently cross the line. But their comedic delivery makes offensive statements palatable for laughter.
While Hailee Steinfeld’s character seemed to be a promising addition, I could not stand the development of her character Emily. After seeing her in True Grit, I was excited to see how she would do in this polar opposite role. I was underwhelmed. Her overly effervescent portrayal came off as try-hard and insincere. Her emotional reactions were standoffish alongside the other actors. The only attribute that made her character tolerable was her vocal talent. Knowing that she has not received any formal vocal training was impressive. Other than that, there was little to like about her performance.
In terms of story, I think the first movie takes the cake. The sequel does a better job with musical selection and arrangement. What makes the movie enjoyable for the most part is the music and comedy. There was enough that it distracted me from my frustrations with the storyline. With the height of a cappella fever, I think Pitch Perfect 2 will fare well in the box office. But I won’t lie — I still enjoyed the movie and exited the theatre singing my heart out.