Let me start by saying I was totally psyched for Pitch Perfect 2. I was one of the ones who actually wanted to see the first one, not one of the many who heard about it from someone else and was convinced to see it. And I loved it. It was the first time in a long time that I laughed (full wheezing, out-of-breath, practically-crying laughs) and it wasn’t because it was lewd or obscene—it was just funny. Seemingly an overnight success, Pitch Perfect was a new brand of comedy poised to impact the genre. So its sequel, written by very same person as the first installment, should’ve been a smash hit, right? Well pardon the musical humor, but I walked away feeling it had fallen very flat indeed.
Here are 5 reasons why:
[SPOILER ALERT if you’ve not yet seen Pitch Perfect 1 or 2]
1. It went heavy on the silly, rather than smart, humor.
Lilly, who barely spoke above a whisper in the first film and always had something outlandish to say, managed to speak at a normal conversational volume by the end of the first film. You expect us to believe that throughout the next three years, she went back to whispering things like, “All my teeth came from different people?” Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy was undoubtedly the breakout of Pitch Perfect (aside from Beca’s cup song). Her humor was completely on point and she laughed at herself in good taste. The second time around, the jokes felt meaner and at her expense. Her antics were overdone and got annoying all too quickly. As a whole, the movie just felt way too dumbed down and re-hashed. Most of the girls on screen were college seniors and hadn’t seemed to mature at all. And don’t even get me started on the commentary coming from John and Gail.
2. It was far too focused on the legacy/enemy.
This isn’t Glee. We don’t need to see the class of new kids come in or how threatening the competition is to appreciate who we already have. Hailee Steinfeld’s character of Emily felt forced down our throats and her impromptu romance with Benji (whom was still difficult not to love even though he lost a bit of his freshman charm), nor her songwriting skills did much to save her plotline or make us care. And if I had to see/hear Das Sound Machine one more time!
3. The music was … different.
It just didn’t hold the same punch as the first time around. It felt like the Treblemakers, known for edgy remixes of Top 40 tunes, only performed once and the song choice (meant to lure in new members? really?) took a complete 180 from their usual style. Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA” from the first one was a predictable yet fun choice for that particular scene—but having Fat Amy come swinging in on silk to “Wrecking Ball” felt tired before she even finished singing the first line. The original song written by Emily (actually Sia and Sam Smith), “Flashlight,” was an interesting turn and a great competition edge—but even that wasn’t great. They won the WORLD Championships with a little Beyoncé and David Guetta? It just didn’t feel big enough.
4. Beca was the only one concerned about life after college.
First of all, Chloe purposely flunked a class THREE times so she could stay with the Bellas?! That was annoying right off the bat. But then to have the girls turn on Beca, who has probably done more for the club (because let’s face it, that’s all it is) than the rest of them combined, was too much. Most of them are graduating (which we do actually “see” in a split-second non-scene) but Beca was the only one preparing for her future with an internship. Sure, she produced a song by the end, but it wasn’t her own work, it was Emily’s. When she calls Jesse freaking out that she has nothing to say, the way to solve that is by having her figure it out and write something brilliant, not use someone else’s words! And speaking of…
5. Where the hell was Jesse?
The focal point of Pitch Perfect was Beca’s introduction to Barden University and the sweet guy who took a liking to her, backed up by the fact that they both found themselves plunged into the world of college a capella. Pitch Perfect 2 relied heavily on the Bellas trying to restore their good name, backed up by, hey, remember that girl who totally revolutionized the way the Bellas operate? She has a boyfriend now, right? I have a soft spot for the romantic side of the rom-com thing, so sue me for wondering why in the world they chose to give the talented studmuffin Skylar Astin such a small handful of lines. Why wasn’t Jesse around to support her when she felt lost? To encourage her? To answer the phone when she needed to talk? To be all boyfriend-y when we waited a full hour and 52 minutes the first time around just to see them kiss? They lasted throughout their entire college careers together and yet, they’re … never together. I kept waiting for him to pop up and the few times that he did, it was always a huge disappointment.
Naturally, there are rumors of a Pitch Perfect 3 in the works because nothing good can be left alone anymore. (Rebel mentioned it in passing to Entertainment Weekly in April.) It would likely not include Anna Kendrick, which already means I’d be hard-pressed to like it. Fat Amy was not intended to be the main character here, but we’re being forced to see it that way apparently.
Moral of the story is? If a movie is a smash hit, don’t try to replicate that success.
If cinematic history has shown us anything, it’s that it never really works out.
Stay tuned for future POP columns about sucky sequels—they’re not exactly hard to come by!