Sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if I’d never become a writer. I like to pretend I could’ve been an artist, an actor, or a singer. (Never anything so pedestrian as a doctor or lawyer, if only because you don’t need good grades to go into the arts.) The only problem is, much like my boy Justin, I’m mediocre to middling at all of those things.
Even though — and maybe even because — I lack the kind of superstar power that could help me succeed in any of those fields, I love them like crazy. I love art, I love theatre, and I friggin’ love a well-sung piece of music. And you know what I really extra especially love? When that music is just voices and nothing else. Yes, this is me freely admitting that I like a cappella music.
Unfortunately, my radical, all-encompassing love for a cappella didn’t extend as far as Pitch Perfect 2, and I’m going to tell you in my usual exhaustive fashion exactly why that is.
Two (three? Math is hard) years after their triumph at Nationals, the Barden Bellas have become a group that thrives on over-the-top theatrics, and they’ve lost their harmony — and very nearly the group itself — as a result. It takes the arrival of a quirky freshman to get them back on track and headed for the world championships, where they claim their title and redeem themselves in the sight of the world.
At this point, the ladies have been friends for a while. They’ve reached the point where they’re incredibly comfortable with each other. And yet, for some reason, Beca doesn’t tell the others when she gets an internship at a recording studio — even though this is exactly the kind of thing she should tell her (only) friends.
It feels like Beca hasn’t experienced any personal growth since the first movie. Yes, somehow she’s managed to hold together her relationship with Jesse (which is an astounding feat in and of itself, given that we barely see him in the second movie at all). Yes, she has a sick job and gets to do a holiday duet with Snoop Dogg. But even though she said these girls were her friends, she’s still completely closed-off with them.
Pitch Perfect 2 is partly about how Beca will deal with the fact that she’s leaving all her friends behind and moving forward into the world. I know how that is, because I left it behind in high school. But that’s the thing: it was high school, you guys. I spent a lot of time with some friends from my university, but it wasn’t sad when we graduated. Know why? Because we still make the time to hang out every now and then, and we talk about our writing.
Why is it so hard for the Bellas to do the same thing? Sure, some of them probably come from different states. But just plan a reunion every summer! Skype! Have a conference call and sing mash-ups over the phone! It’s not that hard to make time for the important people if they’re really that important to you.
On a related note, the movie is also about Fat Amy coming to terms with her own life and her own romance, because what’s a chick flick without a romantic subplot? Up till now Amy’s been a free spirit with lots of boyfriends and no strings holding her down. But now we know why exactly she has Bumper’s number (uhhh… uhhhhh): they’ve been hooking up for a long time and he wants to be her boyfriend.
At first Amy rejects him, but then she realizes that she doesn’t just want to hook up with Bumper: she wants to straight-up marry his pasty ass, because they belong to the night and the thunder and all that jazz. I was actually pretty pleased that they didn’t drag out this particular conflict for that long, because it makes me crazy when movies stretch the romantic subplot from start to finish. No, Amy figures it out pretty quickly because she’s a smart cookie, and now I hardcore ship Fat Bumpy.
But the biggest part of the movie deals with the issue I mentioned earlier: the Bellas have lost their roots and now thrive on theatrics — except they don’t do it well. They’ve also lost touch with their voices, so they go to boot camp (run by Aubrey, of course) and reconnect with their harmony, with each other, and with themselves.
That storyline is a natural extension of the first movie, and it seems completely plausible in the context. I have no problem with it at all. What I did have a problem with was Emily Junk, the aforementioned quirky freshman. Oh, sure, she’s adorable and spunky and trips over her own words, and her eyebrows put me to shame. But she’s so quintessentially “college freshman” that I can’t help but dislike her.
Emily is that person you know who’s pretty good at one thing, but she does that thing over and over and over again until that thing is completely ruined for you. She’s that friend who wants you to re-read and offer criticism on a piece of Supernatural fanfiction you’ve already read eighteen times. She’s the douche who pulls out an acoustic guitar at a party. She is the single most annoying person in the movie because she will not let that song go.
We get it, Emily: you wrote a really twee song that you’re really proud of. It’s meaningful to you because somebody’s love lights your way, and that’s actually kinda sweet. It was cute the first time when you sang it for your audition. But when you sang it at the riff-off? What the hell was that? That was not ’90s hip-hop. That was you showing off the fact that you wrote an original song. And I’m really glad you got shut down for it, because that sh*t won’t fly.
I know, I know. I’m talking to a fictional character like she can hear me. And I know the song was the reason the Bellas won the world championship, because the whole idea was that nobody ever does original songs so this set them apart. (Much like that one episode of Glee, but whatever.) But the way it was presented just completely rubbed me the wrong way, and I think that’s the main reason for all dislike I hold for the movie.
It could also be the fact that sequels are rarely as good as their predecessors, with certain notable exceptions (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, for example). Pitch Perfect 2 didn’t have the effortless charm of its older sister; much like the Bellas at the beginning of the movie, at some points it tries too hard.
Then again, though, that movie was a beginning. This is an ending. Even if there’s a Pitch Perfect 3 with the next generation of the Bellas, back on track and ready to shake things up, it’s still gonna be different because our girls have graduated (a fact that was glossed over really quickly and one I would’ve actually liked to see, mostly because I have no idea what degrees these girls are studying for).
In the end, it’s okay that the movie wasn’t pitch-perfect. There may have been some false notes, but the song itself was sweet, earnest, and a little bit sad. It reminded me of things we leave behind, of things we look forward to, of secrets we want to hold onto because admitting them makes them true.
Mostly it reminded me that — and I know how cheesy it sounds, but I don’t care — a girl’s friends are for life. No matter where they go or what you do, they’ll always be there for you. And when life starts to pick up speed and you’re just trying to hang on for dear life, it’s a very comforting thought to know they’ll grab your hand and won’t let go.
But no, they aren’t my friggin’ flashlight. Come on, son.
Final Grade: B-
- At what point do these guys get any actual schoolwork done?
- Are the Treblemakers gay now? ‘cause was it just me or was that “Lollipop” song totally about the D?
- I always enjoy it when people make fun of hipsters. SRIRACHA IS NOT THAT DELICIOUS YOU GUYS.
- I love that the Green Bay Packers are an a cappella team. I fully and wholeheartedly believe this now.
- Was I the only one made really uncomfortable by the Mexican chick who’s about to get deported and is even more terrifying than Lily?
- So the Dean from She’s the Man not only has a secret a cappella dungeon, but also has $40,000 to spend on a riff-off? And no one else thinks that’s weird?
- John Smith and Gail Abernathy-McFadden-Feinberger, you guys outdid yourselves. I applaud you and can think of no better way to end this review. That is all.