It’s hard to feel much of anything about PITCH PERFECT 2. The film feels very safe, a far cry from how daring the first film felt. It opens with the Barden Bellas a cappella group celebrated as a reigning national champion for the last three years – so, of course, they start this film with a fall from grace in a cringeworthy debacle on live television. The result is that the Bellas are banned from competing – but they strike a deal that if they win the a cappella world championship, they will be reinstated.
In many respects, PITCH PERFECT 2 is a repackaging of the first film – just with higher stakes. Instead of competing against other college teams, they’re now competing against other countries (including the very funny reigning world champions, Das Sound Machine). While this is a perfect opportunity to give a more multicultural spin on songs, the film never goes that route. Instead, the film is filled with more a lot of culturally and racially charged jokes that come across as mean-spirited.
PITCH PERFECT 2 is an odd film. It sidelines Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick) with an incredibly boring subplot in order to flesh out Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and newcomer Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld). While the rest of her teammates are focused on the present, Beca is firmly focused on her future – beginning an internship at a recording studio. It’s a flimsy subplot that has no bearing on the overall storyline, and Beca’s boss (played by Keegan-Michael Key) is totally wasted.
Fat Amy, the highlight of the first film, serves as a cautionary tale in PITCH PERFECT 2. Too much of a good thing is rarely enjoyable, as her subplot confirms. The subplot involving Fat Amy and the unrequited love of Bumper (Adam DeVine) isn’t inherently funny, and it feels like an attempt to flesh out one of the funnier moments of the first film. Fat Amy’s presence in the entire film has increased exponentially, but her storyline is fairly derivative. To Rebel Wilson’s credit, she pushes her character to the limit – but the material is more cloying than funny.
The newcomer to the group is Emily Junk, a freshman whose mother was once a Barden Bella. Emily is a plucky presence, combating the more jaded outlook of Beca. She’s a songwriter, and these talents (predictably) come in handy. The problem with Steinfeld’s portrayal of Emily is that her character jumps into incredible prominence seemingly out of nowhere. Much of her story could have been folded into Beca’s to give her a more compelling storyline. There’s a fun naivety to her character that is exploited throughout the film, but it really feels like Emily is shoehorned into much of the drama at the expense of the established characters.
PITCH PERFECT 2 doesn’t have a reason to exist, aside from giving the audience more catchy tunes. The film is funny, but it doesn’t capture the same magic that made the original film so special. It’s also bogged down with oddball subplots that go nowhere. It’s an enjoyable way to kill two hours, but it’s not anything special. But hey – the music is really good.