The original Pitch Perfect wasn’t much of an original. It played to the Glee crowd with its bawdy comedy and acapella covers of pop hits. A giant eye was positioned at the audience and made to wink for a couple of hours, with Ana Kendrick’s Barden Bellas, songstresses that took this kitsch as the sum total of all their worldly aspirations, affectionately mocked; a delicate balancing act employed in service to an audience that’s both sardonically minded and prone to singing in the shower.
Femi-friendship’s at the forefront of this kind of guff, with the power of warbling strong enough to unite every type of feminoid known to patronise cinemas in search of demographically targeted dirge like this: the obese one, the slut, the spoilt princess, the kooky one, and so on. Yet mechanically put together though it was, with a female versus male competition thrown in for good measure, because nothing unites the mimsy brigade like a troupe of arrogant hardons, the first film managed to be fun, which guaranteed it an afterlife and now a sequel.
The bad news for fans of the Barden Bellas is that Pitch Perfect 2 plays like a laboured joke; a movie trying too hard and not enough. Perhaps it’s the filmmaker’s reliance on Rebel Wilson being fat, or John Michael Higgins’ faux misogyny, which is licence to make hay from the real thing, or that attempts to inject heart into what’s essentially a cynical retread, using Hailee Steinfeld’s fresh faced newbie, look parachuted in, but the film never feels greater than the sum of its setpiece sing offs.
Perhaps as a male who likes instruments, but don’t tell my Doctor, I just couldn’t invest in a world where university students clap along to a rendition of “you’re sucking too hard on a lollipop” or indeed where no one has any interests outside mainstream music and dance choreography. The movie’s nicely staged while the character arcs remain largely, with no disrespect to Fat Amy, irrelevant. Less a sequel then, more of a reprise of the elements from the first film thought by debutant director Elizabeth Banks to have resonated first time around. What did she miss? Relationships we care about and a vestige of wit. Put that to a beat and you’re in business.