Disclaimer:This review contains a number of spoilers. If you haven’t yet seen Pitch Perfect 2 and don’t want anything spoiled, please read no further.
Let’s get this out of the way up front: Pitch Perfect 2 was not as good as the original.
Most of the best humor from this film is derivative of gags from its predecessor. A number of the over-the-top one-liners (particularly from commentator John and Bella Flo) cross the line from absurdist humor to very arguably actively offensive. The romantic sub-plots are blunt and infinitely less satisfying than the Beca-Jesse courtship in Pitch Perfect, and the plot on the whole feels a bit scattered and unfocused. All that, and between the focus on the fictitious “Worlds” and the surreal underground riff-off scene, the film feels like less of an amplification and celebration of the legit a cappella world, more like a flight of fancy that vaguely nods toward aca-realities.
OK, so there’s your run down of how this film feels from a more generalist perspective—the same sort of perspective you can get from reviews on a thousand other websites that are not concerned with a cappella beyond the context of this film franchise.
I’d like to spend the rest of this review drilling down to how this film landed for the a cappella community, and what I felt it really stood for in that context.
In that context, I loved this movie.
Around the time The Sing-Off first hit the airwaves, I remember reading some minor-scale backlash against the show being framed as a competition, which implied eliminations and just one group ultimately winning. I remember super articulate responses from Deke Sharon and others about how competition was required to sell a show like this to a major network and to the masses.
I found myself rediscovering this debate as I watched Pitch Perfect 2. I wondered if competition were really essential to a movie like this and, moreover, after escalating from the very real ICCAs to the fictitious World A Cappella Championships, where Pitch Perfect 3 might land (a cappella in space, anyone)? I thought of ways this film could still work without the foregone conclusion that the underdog Bellas would again win a big competition to cap the film.