Film Last night after watching Pitch Perfect 2 and tweeting that I'd watched Pitch Perfect 2, a friend asked if I'd posted a review anywhere because she wanted to know what I thought and having yet not had the time but not wanting to disappoint her, I spent the next half hour having an opinion. Given that it's a good four or five paragraphs of words and sentences, it seems a waste not to put it here in some form and so here it is, my insta-reaction to Pitch Perfect 2, cleaned up somewhat for grammar and sense. It's a bit rough, and the Sixth Doctor wouldn't like the number of times the word 'I' is used. It's also full of spoilers for this and Rocky so don't venture below if you haven't seen either films yet. If you haven't seen the film yet, I'd recommend it. There aren't many female led films of this kind and there are moments of pure joy amid the obvious cash grab of making a sequel to a film which was already perfectly fine.
On Pitch Perfect 2: I enjoyed it. I love musicals anyway and will tolerate all kinds of shenanigans in relation to weak storylines and gaps in logic if the songs and dance numbers are good enough which they are here despite the contemporary propensity for shots lasting nano-seconds so that its nearly impossible to take in what are clearly highly choreographed and highly rehearsal sequences. I even cried at the end when the legacy of the Bellas appeared on stage even though it defies all logic that they’d all pitch up in Stockholm and also be the finale if the German group were supposed to be the returning champions.
I tend to prefer films with female protagonists, especially if they’re about friendships (cf, Frozen). At a certain point I grew tired of films by men about men doing men things. This was directed by Elizabeth Banks and although the credits indicate a fair amount of men in the crew everything about the music was also female led. Plus the male characters, despite the odd moment of agency, are very much secondary characters and every shift in a relationship in a scene is presented from the female POV and there's no desperation to shoe-horn in a male figure designed to relax why-exes. These are humans and that's quite enough.
There are plenty of moments of pure cinematic joy, like the slow motion shots of the Bellas in the water park and the routines of Das Sound Machine with their wall of verbal sound and extraordinary dexterity (which actually makes the Bellas's win at the end somewhat ludicrous. I was half expecting the Rocky approach especially since the film also ditches the sports-films structure of the first. Some of the running jokes work really well, like Kendrick's inability to say horrible things to the lead singer of this rival band played by Birgitte Hjort Sørensen. It's also clever to have Hailee Steinfeld's character effectively filling in Kendrick's role from the first film and making her distinctive enough that it doesn't feel like a retread.
Nevertheless half way through I realised it doesn't quite cure its unexpected sequelitis in that the first film was a pretty complete story in and of itself and with no real narrative to speak of going forward doesn't quote manage to find its characters something convincing to do or a decent enough challenge. Most unplanned follow-ups have to deal with this if the source material isn't already inherently serialised and it's rare that they manage to produce something cohesive especially if it doesn't have a specific lead character. City Slickers 2 definitely can't deal with the fact that the whole first film was about trying to make Billy Crystal's character smile again and has to then create a spurious reason for him to be sad again instead.
PP2 also suffers from the problem of one or two of its actors becoming more famous in the meantime / because of the success of the first film and so Rebel Wilson’s given a romantic subplot bits of which are genuinely funny (the moment with car) but would have worked better, just as it did in the first film as part of the crowd. Kendrick’s story feels entirely “manufactured” and in parts feels like it was written in such a way as to deal with her schedule clashing with a different production rather than the needs of the story. In a couple of her scene it’s almost as though she’s not interacting with the other characters on screen having been shot against a green screen and CSOed in later. I have no idea if this is true, but there are some weird shots at the car show were the lighting on her face doesn’t seem to match and she doesn't touch anyone.
But most "importantly" some of the elements which seemed sweet and campy in the first film have become forced. At times, it’s difficult to know if the off-colour jokes are being pushed for irony or whether they’re actually are the thing you’re apparently supposed to assume are parodying the propensity for that sort of thing. Is it ok to have so many “fat” jokes if they’re about Rebel Wilson and if her character’s name is Fat Amy? Is having a character whose only dialogue is about having a grim South American past ok? Homophobic undertones? The flat out racism and notable sexism of the hosts? The CinemaSins video above is recommended for its survey of the key issues. It's noticeable that the host Jeremy and his writers have become increasingly intolerant of sexism in films over time and embarrassed of their own early running jokes in that vein. They really hate this.
I don’t know and I'm not sure the filmmakers do either. I didn’t laugh in these places mainly because I wasn’t sure what I was laughing at. Having the whole story kickstarted by the shame of Fat Amy ripping her leotard in front of the President and the world doesn’t seem in keeping with the first film and a push towards a wider audience. Except it's confusing because the film was notably popular with and made for a predominantly female audience and did huge business, so either I'm not in on the irony, or understand the irony and it's just not my sort of humour or that it's just simply problematic and everyone should take a long hard luck at themselves. I tend to have similar issues with Seth MacFarlane films, especially when he's making rape jokes.
I see that they’re making a Pitch Perfect 3 even though again, there is not story especially since they’re core gang is supposed to have graduated by now. My guess is it’ll be about Kendrick trying to get the group to make it in the music business which will probably lead to more cameos and some of the product placement that weighed this down. What I’d like to see is more characterisation of the rest of the group, giving them more to do than be punchline machines although I understand that that to an extent the series is supposed to be about Kendrick’s character. All of which said I like most of the these actors well enough to turn up for it – or at least watch it when it's added to a streaming service.