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Summer Recap 2015: Singing is Easy, Comedy is Hard

If Avengers: Age of Ultron constantly flirts with falling back on old blockbuster tricks, then Pitch Perfect 2 announces, within seconds of the Universal logo being unveiled, that yes, you have, indeed paid to watch the same movie twice. The Barden Bellas are back, and four years after their triumphant victory in the national a capella competition, the all-female singing squad have become a national hit, as they invited to perform at the birthday gala for President Obama. If you guessed that this performance goes to shit, then congratulations, you saw the first movie! Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) has a wardrobe malfunction in front of Pres-O, and the girls are banned from every a capella showcase across the nation, as well as disbanded by their university as a result. Becca (Anna Kendrick), the group's leader, make a deal with John Smith (John Michael Higgens) and Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberger (Elizabeth Banks), the two a capella commentators to reinstate the Bellas if they win at the Worlds a capella competition, which brings up a few points:

  1. Why is Becca going to two commentators to beg to reinstate her team? Shouldn't she take this matter up with the ASB, or the Dean of the university? Are John and Gail on the school's board who just happen to moonlight as commentators? 
  2. The film announces that no American a capella group has ever won at the Worlds competition. But given the success of the Bellas, you'd think they would have at least been invited over the course of the four years the group has been together?
  3. And why do they have to prove themselves again to get reinstated? I'm assuming the group has won another title in this timespan, so at the very least, would't an accident like this have minor consequences and not an outright severe punishment?
Oh, right - they're plot holes to cover-up for the already thin excuse to make this sequel which was a surprise smash the first time. Nevermind.

Before I continue, I'll just come right out and say it: I didn't like Pitch Perfect back in 2012. In fact, I had named it one of the worst movies of the year, and went even further to call it an overrated, predictable and unfunny piece of crap. To me, Pitch Perfect came off as a longer, more obnoxious version of Glee meets Bring It On!, and I just couldn't enjoy the musical numbers as a result because the humor was so uninspired and flat; the performances so full of recycled cliches and annoying.

Having an idea of what to expect the second time around made me look past the films flaws and see what could be salvaged, mainly the musical numbers are all strong. You can tell how much these actresses worked on making sure the performances on the stage look as authentic as possible, and it's a real joy to watch. Hell, the scene with the underground a capella duel is perhaps the most creative and - dare I say it? - fun sequence in the whole movie. And after seeing the Bellas rivals, Da Sound Machine, I was kinda rooting for those arrogant d-bags to win it all, because of how in sync they were the whole time and how well the dance choreography was with that particular group.

Having said all that - Pitch Perfect 2 suffers two major drawbacks. The first is that besides the Worlds a capella tournament setting and new rivals, this is a carbon copy of the first movie - the girls have a new member to their roster, Emily Junk (Halie Steinfeld) who they're trying to figure out where and how she fits into the group. The girls get humiliated by their rivals, and there's a falling out. The girls have to find a way to regain their harmony back and square off in a showdown between their rivals who had bested them before. Oh, and more forced and unfunny humor with the individual members of the team. Later, rinse and repeat. The second, and most important issue with this sequel is the same one that plagued the first: Pitch Perfect 2 simply isn't that funny. The jokes are just so one-note: Stacie's promiscuous; Chloe's a control freak; Fat Amy does outrageous things, Lily's weird as hell - we get it already! These jokes and quirks that we saw in the first movie were hammered so many times that it made the humor obnoxious to listen to, and screenwriter Kay Cannon plays the same hand once again, to even lesser effect this time.

Pitch Perfect 2 might be slightly more tolerable this time, but it can't conceal the fact that it's a repetitive sequel that offers more of the same, and honestly, if you enjoyed the first Pitch Perfect movie, then don't let me keep raining on your parade. Universal is green lighting a second sequel for summer 2017, but I'll just sit that one out. The Barden Bellas just aren't my thing, but I'll always have Da Sound Machine, I guess.

** stars out of ****

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