There is a moment early on in ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ that had me laughing so loudly I almost had to excuse myself. I’m referring to the opening sequence at the Kennedy Center in which a character is suspended from the ceiling in a cat suit as she does a riff on Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’. As the leotard splits open, the camera cuts to the shocked and disgusted reactions of the audience members, which President Barack Obama and Michele Obama happen to be a part of. If only the picture had maintain its level of comic energy beyond this point.
The first ‘Pitch Perfect’ from 2012 about a group of college a cappella singers known as the Barden Bellas was a total blast. It grossed $65 million domestically on a production budget of $17 million and was very well received by audience members.
Every cast member of ‘Pitch Perfect’ (Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Elizabeth Banks to name a few) was given a chance to provide off-kilter laughs. Here, we get more characters at play in addition to the returning ones and the screenplay struggles mightily at giving each of them their due. Because there needs to be an accountability framework in place, I should note that this picture marks the directorial debut of Elizabeth Banks.
My question is if you know that your movie already has a built-in fan base, why not aim higher? Why bring back these characters and have them deliver the same jokes all over again? Why replicate the exact same structure as the previous film? With an increased budget, why have such shoddy production values? Why overcrowd the frame with all of these performers? And if the final showdown takes place in Copenhagen, why have just one shot (and an unremarkable one) to establish the setting? Why include Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld to the cast for no reason other than to set the stage for ‘Pitch Perfect 3’?
‘Pitch Perfect 2’ isn’t without its moments though. Aside from the uproarious opening, I also laughed at the politically incorrect narrations by the a capella commentators, and enjoyed the wide-ranging song choices deployed within the musical sequences. In between these moments, however, ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ really lags as the proceedings are imbued with an unshakable sense of déjà vu.
Oops, I see I neglected to mention the plot of ‘Pitch Perfect 2’: the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American team has ever won. Will they redeem themselves from that ‘Wrecking Ball’ incident? You can guess where this story goes.
The summer movie season has just begun and I am already battling an extreme case of sequelitis. I wasn’t certain if I was watching the sequel to ‘Pitch Perfect’ or a remake of it. And with the original being currently available on Netflix Canada, there really is no reason to make the trip to the theater for reheated leftovers. QED.