Jason Wiese | Culture Editor
Published May 15, 2015; 9:30 a.m.
I will begin with the “a ca-bvious”: “Pitch Perfect 2” is not as good as its predecessor. The 2012 comedy about a quirky college a capella group was a fun, unique film that introduced us to the hilarious Rebel Wilson and took on the world by storm. This is exactly why actress Elizabeth Banks should not have made this highly anticipated sequel her directorial debut.
The film begins in a highly lewd and unnecessarily mean spirited way, as the Barden Bellas’ performance for President Obama at the Kennedy Center ends in controversy, sending the Bellas on an extremely public downward spiral including a suspension of their national tour. Beca (Anna Kendrick), now the leader of the Bellas, makes a deal that if they win the World A Capella Championship in Germany, their suspension can be lifted, thus beginning a personal battle between the Bellas and powerful German a capella group Das Sound Machine.
The ridiculous premise is only the tip of the iceberg. Most of the comedy feels forced. Instead of reusing the same jokes, they try to come up with new ones that fall flat more often than they succeed, especially during the bitter rivalry between Das Sound Machine and the Bellas, which prompts several stereotypical jokes at Germany’s expense.
Many characters are underused as well. Skyler Astin, who was a major highlight of the first film, reprises his role as Jesse, but is criminally underused sharing only two scenes with girlfriend Beca. For those who fear that Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) will end up stealing the entire show, do not be afraid. They could have used more of her, and perhaps they should have. However, her character is portrayed as less “Fat Amy” and more like a Fat Amy impersonator.
The heart of the story centers on newcomer Emily (Hailee Steinfeld, who still shows great talent since her Academy Award-nominated role in 2010’s “True Grit”). She dreams of being a Bella, being the daughter of a former member (Katey Segal). Her charm and talent wins the hearts of the audience and of Barden Treblemaker Benji (Ben Platt). Steinfeld is the strongest role of the film, much more than Beca’s stressful internship, Chloe’s (Brittany Snow) obsessive participation with a capella and Fat Amy’s unexpected romance (which is kind of a cop out, in a way).
Overall, the “Pitch Perfect” fan in me could not resist rooting for the quirky, ragtag singers and laughing at even the corniest jokes. It may invoke split opinions among its audience, including its most die-hard fans, but if you can get lost in its nonsense, it is a lot of fun.