‘Pitch Perfect 2’ Review — Still Awkward, Still Funny

The highly anticipated sequel to the semi-cult-hit Pitch Perfect finally arrived in theaters. Did fans get a second helping of the goofball musical comedy that they were asking for? Or was the sequel simply an excuse to reuse old jokes?

Pitch Perfect 2 is dependent on its script, which is a huge relief for a movie full of songs. While often compared to Glee, the Pitch Perfect franchise succeeds where Glee fails: witty dialogue and lovable characters. Like the first movie, Pitch Perfect 2 shines best when characters are bantering and bickering — especially when one of the bizarre supporting characters jumps in with a disturbing non-sequitur. As fans might expect, Fat Amy still has the best moments in the movie.

Many of the gags in the first Pitch Perfect are either revised or referenced in the sequel, such as the Barden Bellas humiliating themselves on stage during a routine (this time involving Fat Amy inadvertently flashing the president). Unless you believe the purpose of sequels is to totally change the franchise formula, Pitch Perfect 2 successfully relies on the same basic plot structure as its predecessor. After the a cappella team is all but disbanded for their debacle in front of the president, their only hope of competing is to go up against the best groups in the world — meaning the main obstacle, once again, is for the girls to get along, work together, and win the contest.

Despite the similarities between the films, Pitch Perfect 2 features some strange casting arrangements. One of the lead characters from Pitch Perfect, Aubrey, who filled both a protagonist and an antagonist role, is almost completely absent from the film — but spontaneously shows up halfway through the film to fill a brief mentor role. The primary love interest from the first movie, Jesse, is reduced to a nearly useless supporting role with about five lines. One of the best characters, the despicable blowhard Bumper, makes an awkward return with an inexplicable 180 in personality. And a new character, Emily, shows up as a fresh-faced young songwriter whose loudmouth outbursts of enthusiasm seem both out of place and out of character.

In addition to an awkward arrangement of characters, Pitch Perfect 2 also suffers from a few uncomfortable editing choices. Scenes often seem to appear out of nowhere, in confusing settings and full of unknown extras. For example, Bumper makes his first appearance in a vague location on campus with no transition. He doesn’t enter the scene or walk on set, the camera simply cuts to Bumper announcing his return to a bunch of characters with no lines.

If you’re looking for a reliably funny movie that depends mostly on quirky characters but has some great performances thrown in, Pitch Perfect 2 is a safe bet. But you might have to overcome an ongoing sense of awkwardness throughout. Even a few of the performances felt forced, although awkwardness is one of Rebel Wilson’s charms. Many of the vocal performances were clearly heavily treated and badly lip-synced, and will often leave you wondering if you’re actually hearing the voice of the actor mouthing the words.

Pitch Perfect 2 was the first major directorial project of actress Elizabeth Banks (not counting a segment from the critically panned Movie 43), who also reprises her role as one of the hilarious a cappella competition announcers. Banks does an outstanding job of maintaining the same tone and humor of the first film, while adding a bit of her own unique flavor. The numbers don’t lie — Pitch Perfect 2 is doing well at the box office. Though it’s not without its faults, Elizabeth Banks has done well by contributing to the female presence in Hollywood.

“I made a funny movie — about girls — and it’s going to make money? It just doesn’t happen,” she said, according to the Daily Mail.

The Pitch Perfect 2 soundtrack is also topping the charts, and for good reason. The song choices were strong and the musical production was top notch, despite the inevitable Hollywood studio trickery.

It will be interesting to see how the third Pitch Perfect movie turns out, especially since the Bellas already won a world championship–and yet another main character, Chloe, vowed to leave the team next year. Pitch Perfect is hilarious, no doubt, but it tries a little too hard to stay the same while changing so much.

Final score: 7/10