In 2012, a nerdy little movie made its way into theaters, and exploded a cappella all over everyone. That little film was Pitch Perfect, and it was quite literally, perfect. The movie, starring Anna Kendrick (then known for co-starring with George Clooney in Up in the Air) and Rebel Wilson (of Bridesmaids), took a group of misfit girls at a fictional college and put them all together to form the Barden Bellas, a fiercely competitive a cappella group.
Last month, the sequel to the first Pitch Perfect was wide released with high expectations. The aptly named Pitch Perfect 2 was supposed to be the great sequel–but while funny and engaging, it still fell flat. Warning: if you have not seen Pitch Perfect 2 and don’t want spoilers, don’t read after the jump!
The things that made the first Pitch Perfect charming are exactly what make its sequel charming: the riff-off, the a cappella performances, the competitive nature of such a niche form of art and the friendships between the girls. The riff-off is very unlike the first one, and maybe more entertaining. The scene with the riff-off feature approximately a million cameos, and one that is particularly entertaining to sports fans.
The main conflict, though is sexist and fat-shaming at its finest. Even though the character of Fat Amy (or Fat Patricia) is perfectly content in her skin, the movie points out over and over that this is unusual for a fat girl. The body-shaming starts at the very beginning, when Fat Amy’s Lycra bodysuit splits, causing “Muffgate.” Then the whole film focuses on the why and the how of the whole incident.
There is also blatant racism so overt, it’s could be easy to think that Adam Sandler was producing this film. A single character, who is found later in the film to be undocumented from Guatemala, literally did not have a single line that didn’t relate back to being deported or how terrible her life back in Guatemala was–“I had diarrhea for seven years” and “After I graduate, I will probably be deported and sold into sexual slavery” are two lines that are actually said. Out loud. The casual racism of Hollywood had spread to teen films.
Here’s the thing: if the homophobic, racist and sexist jokes had been satirical and funny, I might have let this pass. But this is lazy comedy, and I tired of the “developing nations are hell” schtick very quickly.
Overall, the movie was still very funny. The primary antagonist is a German a cappella group called Das Sound Machine, and we first see them perform at a car show. The two leaders, played by two unreasonably good-looking people, are funny! They sing and they manage to keep their German accents while singing, which is a talent unbeknownst to many. Their riff-off songs–genius. Their performance at the worlds–genius!
The other bright spot in this movie was the introduction of Hailee Steinfeld, a new member of the Bellas, who writes original music and is the kind of eager, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed member. It’s a nice refresher to Anna Kendrick’s sardonic Becca, who seems unimpressed by anything, and is only ever open with her friends when she’s about to leave them. The original song “Flashlight” performed by the Bellas at the worlds competition has been stuck in my head for days now–and with many in my company, since the soundtrack has topped the charts until today.
Pitch Perfect 2 is in theaters now!