by David Robinson, Movie Reviewer
Available now on DVD, “Pitch Perfect 2” demonstrates the truism that sequels to popular films are rarely as good as the original — and sometimes they are disasters. Starring much of the original cast and scripted by the same screenwriter (Kay Cannon), this one basically feels warmed over. There are fat jokes, fart jokes, gross-out jokes and plenty of awkward pauses between. Instead of narrative momentum, first time director Elizabeth Banks pieces together a series of sketches leading to an absolutely predictable Big Finale. That the movie thrived at the box office speaks more to the abysmal state of much of what currently passes for entertainment than to its own merits, such as they are.
The story picks up a few years after the Barden Bellas, an all-female a cappella group from fictional Barden College, have won the national championship. (Barden seems to have subbed singing groups for athletic teams, perhaps to keep tuition down.) Indeed, they have repeated twice since their initial triumph and are now invited to sing before President Obama. Disaster follows, in the form of an accidental mooning of the First Family by Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), resulting in the group’s being barring from this year’s national competition. Not to worry, though: they can still enter the international sing off to be held in Copenhagen.
At Barden, they are barred from auditioning new talent to join their apparent sorority house, where plenty of high jinks occur. You know, pillow fights, sliding down stairs on plastic discs, pool parties — everything but studying, that tired old college stuff. Nobody opens a book, but chief Bella Beca (Anna Kendrick) does use her laptop to create musical mashups for her new job as intern at Residual Heat, a local recording outfit headed by her hip boss (Keegan-Michael Key).Despairing over his attempts to put together a new Christmas album by Snoop Dogg — as who wouldn’t be? — he lets Beca demo a mix of “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Winter Wonderland.”
She wins his approval, but this only further distracts her from leading the Bellas on a road trip. See, their rightful place has been taken by a German techno-group, “Das Sound Machine,” led by one Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sorenson) and evidently produced and choreographed by Nazis. The two groups compete in an a cappella smackdown in the basement of a fey Hefneresque millionaire (I never imagined I’d be writing that phrase!), where the Germans ultimately triumph over the ethnically diverse Bellas. (Is there a politically correct subtext here? Not really.)
This loss only sets up the final showdown in Denmark, of course, where the Bellas go back to their roots, except for adding a (gasp!) original song written by their new member, a legacy named Emily. To spice up matters along the way, the film chucks in romantic entanglements for Emily, Beca, and Fat Amy. The girls go to a boot camp retreat to improve their singing and turn things around after Beca gets caught in a bear trap. Go figure.
Just supplying these examples illustrates what is disastrously wrong with “Pitch Perfect 2” — the hilarity is forced, the comic editing is absent, and the lack of wit results in boredom. Rated “PG-13” for “innuendo and language,” the film is chock full of guest cameos by Famous People, product placements for everything from Volkswagen to Pantene, and anything that will distract from its lameness. Parents, guide the young folks outdoors for the summer nights ahead.