Pitch Perfect-er (?): The Sequel Review

I’m dusting off my desktop keyboard for a well deserved essay on how the sequel of everyone’s favorite musical film did the second time around. Stay tuned? A RUNDOWN 

Set three years after the first movie, Pitch Perfect 2 brings us a less morose and presumably more mature Beca (Anna Kendrick), who has made working with the Barden Bellas her main ‘extra curricular’ at Barden University. She also seems to be a particularly happy relationship with fellow former record store intern/ acaboy Jesse (Skylar Astin), and has developed close friendships with her fellow band of female ‘misfits’ (aka stereotypes personified). Hailee Steinfeld debuts as a freshman legacy, whose main college goal is to become a Barden Bella like her over eager and overtly musical mom. Anna Camp returns in a less sassy, less controlling version of her collegiate self, along with post John Mayer Bumper (Adam Devine).

ACTING

It’s nice to see Anna Kendrick finally inject some more personality to Beca in the sequel, shedding her angsty aura for something a bit more… realistic. Kendrick also does a good job of improving Beca’s stage presence, asserting her position as de facto Bella queen bee.

Rebel Wilson doesn’t quite the steal the show the second time around, but her witty quips do continue to maintain her importance to the dynamic of the cast. She does account for almost all of the film’s memorable physical comedy, though, proving just why she became a star in the first place.

Hailee Steinfeld is an unexpected addition to a cast of actors grounded in comedy, but she plays doe-eyed freshman quite well. Most people who grew up with Pitch Perfect (much like myself– I was a freshman like the Barden girls when the first movie came out), can identify with her character’s over-eager nature. I wasn’t too fond though of how they rushed her budding romance with Jesse’s magician BFF (Ben Platt).

The film doesn’t quite do justice to its main relationships, though. Instead of building more on the Beca- Jesse dynamic, which was one of the main pairups in Pitch Perfect, Elizabeth Banks and co opt to dedicate more screen time to developing the Fat Amy- Bumper hookup into something serious. Beca and Jesse are relegated to second best PP power couple, overtaken by the new girl x magician coupling between Hailee Steinfeld and Ben Platt.

Just like any good ensemble movie, Pitch Perfect 2 draws its strength from the chemistry between its actors. They may exemplify a mix of random societal stereotypes, but they seem to go together quite well.

SOUNDTRACK

Pitch Perfect 2 brings back some tried and tested formulas to its chosen songs: an elevated riff off, a lot of 90’s hip hop, and some dizzying mashups of songs that reached their prime sometime in the 2010’s. They also decided to borrow a tried and tested Glee move that won the New Directioners their regionals (or was it nationals?) a few years back, featuring an original song in their set list (sung by Jesse J in the soundtrack).

FAVORITES 

“Lollipop” – The Treblemakers 

It’s nice to see that these guys are still able to hold their own as a group despite being relegated to second string Barden acapella group. Their playlist conversion from doing hip hop and R&B was a somewhat welcome change, as seen in their performance of “Lollipop” by Mika. Skylar Astin is extremely underrated in the entirety of the movie, but shines like a superstar in this Trebletastic track.

I could’ve used another show stopping Treble song, though: a Bella- Treblemaker collaboration would have been nice.

“Back to Basics”- The Barden Bellas 

A short yet sweet mash up that echoes Pentatonix’s “Evolution of Music” and grounds it in some sensational harmonics between some of the best groups in popular music. Wait for the ‘breakdown’ bit of the song, it’s gold.

“Any Way You Want It”- Pentatonix, Filharmonic and company

A world tour of sorts set to another song that Glee has already reworked. The difference? It sounds a thousand times better.

SO SO TRACKS 

“Crazy Youngsters”- Ester Dean 

This confused me at first. Was this pop? hip hop mixed with club music undertones? Ester Dean, you’ve done better.

“Flashlight”- Jesse J 

This song doesn’t work as well on its own as compared to when it serves as the climax for the finale Bella performance. It’s supposed to be a plot mover, and it does that nicely as part of the feminist mega mix.

Postscript: “Run the World” is an overused feminist pop song. Can we transition to “Flawless”, people?

CONCLUSION: On The Female Feel Good Film

Not since the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has a film packed with female characters become such a mainstream success. Surely, Pitch Perfect 2 owes its success to a powerhouse debut and a kickass soundtrack, but the film does one thing right: waving the female flag loud and proud. From being the first female group to win a national championship, to dominating the acapella game years later, the Bellas are meant to make women everywhere feel both proud and empowered.

But this is no feminist propaganda. The Bellas are portrayed not as men hating robots, but as a ragtag group of musically talented women. That’s it. They work with a mix of normalcy and talent, and in the same way that Glee succeeded years before, Pitch Perfect has as well.

Postscript: Das Sound Machine 

My thoughts on the Bellas’ prime opponent, in case I forget to mention them.

DAS SOUND MACHINE. A walking ode to the East German stereotypes of old. At least this time, they’re not robotic and actually have extremely humorous personalities. The 1984 reference and their chilling finale performance are all tributes to culture tropes from the past, and they’re recognizable.

Notable Moments/People: tall blond lady (I forget her name), and their killer rap segment in the riff off track. A no no? What’s with singing with heavy, stereotypical European (or rather Geman?) accents.

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