Pitch Perfect 2

★★½
Sings a nicer “pitch” than the first movie, but it could still be a lot funnier.
Movie Review #972

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My favorite a cappella moment in any movie appears in “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”, where Will Ferrell and the gang sing Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight”. It always has been that scene, and as far as I’m concerned, it always will be. The original “Pitch Perfect” certainly didn’t change that for me. In fact, it only made me hate a cappella a little. I couldn’t stand that movie. I understand it found a cult following almost immediately, but I found it absolutely obnoxious and extremely derivative.

Clearly, “Pitch Perfect 2” was made for one reason: to capitalize on the success of the original. And so it did. It made more money in its first three days than the first movie did its entire time in theaters. And so it deserves to, because it’s a far better movie. I’m not saying the “Pitch” story has actually gotten good yet, but it’s a whole heck of a lot better now.

The way the plot progresses here is absurd. It starts off with the Bellas (the fictional sorority from the fictional Barden University) performing a show for President Barack Obama. Yes, they got the President of the United States to do a cameo here. For reals. So in other words, assume this is the first in a long series of cameos that follow throughout the course of the film. Moving on, though, the plot seems to go into motion because of a wardrobe malfunction that occurs while the Bellas are in the middle of their act. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) is being lowered onto the stage by a cord that is apparently fighting with her weight…and apparently losing that battle. The cord rips her dress so as to expose her, uh, unspeakable area.

As you might guess, the Bellas are ostracized because of their Janet Jackson incident. We see several news segments commenting on the disgrace, but I guess Obama declined to deliver a speaking role for the movie, because we don’t get to hear his take on it. Anyway, the sorority is called to the dean’s office for an intervention, and instead of being kicked out, they’re actually given a second chance. If they win the world championship, then they’re off the hook. Of course, don’t we already know that they will win the world championship? It’s obvious that even if they’re shit out of luck by their last few performances, there’ll be some sort of deus ex machina to save them.

The Bellas are up against a Deutsch a cappella group called Das Sound Machine, and its with the music of this group that the movie wins us over, at least somewhat. Countering the Bellas’ lackluster performances, which range from Pat Benatar’s “We Belong” to Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)”, are Das Sound Machine’s energized renditions of Muse’s “Uprising” and Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)”.

But there’s nothing at all that sets “Pitch Perfect 2” apart from any other creativity-free comedy movie. I give it props for picking out a great deal more humor than most of such formulaic movies. Even if the vast majority of its jokes are failures, that’s only because it tries too hard and too much to make us laugh. There are enough moments of comedy that do work here to make this a better comedy than its predecessor. These mostly include celebrity cameos. Just the surprise factor of seeing President Obama appear in this film was enough to make me (and the rest of the theater) laugh pretty hard. Because one might expect President Obama to cameo in a movie about a PGA tournament, but not one about collegiate a cappella singers. Maybe the most amusing cameo in the entire movie is Snoop Dogg’s. His showing up is a joke in and of itself, but there’s also a great deal of laughter rooted in the parody (albeit random) of Snoop’s own persona. He shows up to record “Winter Wonderland”, which is as amusing as it sounds. Wait, there might be one slightly better cameo here: the Green Bay Packers’. Apparently they’re really into country music, and they can sing too. Such is what we discover when they face off with the Bellas and several other a cappella groups.

The excess of cameos makes the movie almost feel surreal in its appreciation for a sense of humor that acts on the utterly random. But it’s funny, and that’s what matters. Unfortunately, cameos are one of the only truly funny things “Pitch Perfect 2” has to offer. The movie, directed by Elizabeth Banks (in her directorial debut, though you might recognize her onscreen role in “The Hunger Games”), maintains a sort of balance between what’s terrifically funny and what’s horribly unfunny. The worst of it being gross-out humor that elicits repulsion and little else. Try keeping your popcorn in your mouth when Fat Amy, on a camping trip, announces that she’s about to wipe her ass on the side of the tent.

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