Pitch Perfect 2
is more self-aware and self-consciously “edgy” than its not-entirely-wholesome predecessor. However, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if this hugely profitable sequel fails to engender the same levels of love and affection as the original film: the drop-off in quality is sad, and it too often replaces the joyful noises of group singing with the sickening thud of easy jokes falling flat.
Released in 2012, Pitch Perfect’
s best qualities—its non-stop sass, its coy takes on college romance, and its generous female characterizations—were explicitly linked to unhip, old-fashioned notions of community, cooperation, solidarity and democracy. Whether they were squabbling or singing their hearts out, the all-girl Barden Bellas often looked and acted like a good group that just needed to get it together. Their all-for-one spirit was most visible in Pitch Perfect’
s two defining musical numbers: a “riff-off” in a drained swimming pool that revives “No Diggity” as a modern American spiritual, and a final number that—and believe me, I wish this wasn’t true—brings tears of joy to my eyes every time I watch it.
Pitch Perfect bounces along like a great Lily Allen album; Pitch Perfect 2
stumbles along like a thrown-together collection of demos, outtakes and solo experiments from any pop star who wants to be taken seriously. This is a careless, placid, steer-like entertainment which bides its time and chews its cud as it awaits the online butchering that will give the masses shorter, tidier, easily consumable clips. Anna Kendrick will endure no matter what, though: she’s a sotto voce wiseacre who overcompensates for her tiny, sticklike stature—she’s always looking up at someone—by spitting lines at His Girl Friday speed until either she or whoever she’s talking to runs out of gas. But Rebel Wilson, a.k.a. Fat Amy, doesn’t escape as cleanly. Her natural deadpan and comic timing hint at vast reservoirs of mischief that lend her both grace and a certain wry dignity, but she constantly undercuts these traits every time she falls down or runs into something. (Which may be the joke, but it’s a dumb one.) Still, her Pat Benatar number is probably the musical highlight of the movie.
The rest of the wreckage—which includes David Cross, Clay Matthews, Keegan-Michael Key, the rest of the supporting cast, and a Snoop Dogg Christmas mash-up—is too dreary to contemplate. This disappointing musical reinforces an old, deeply-held conviction: whenever performers sing just to hear the sound of their own voice, they’re really obnoxious.