I was in an a cappella group when I was in graduate school. This doesn’t make me uniquely qualified to comment on Pitch Perfect 2 in the slightest- mainly because lots of people were in a cappella groups in college, and because the a cappella scene at the University of Oklahoma isn’t exactly competitive. No, the only thing being an alumnus of an a cappella group gets me is the ability to tell you that these Pitch Perfect movies are hardly about a cappella groups at all. No real a cappella show looks like the musical numbers in either movie, and neither movie really milks the a cappella premise for any of its inherent humor except for the fact that it’s kind of dorky. But Glee is six years old, so you already knew that, didn’t you?
The first movie tracked the Barden Bellas on their way to a redemptive championship win. Pitch Perfect 2 sees most of the original cast back, including Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, along with a few new faces, like Hailee Steinfeld as a new recruit and Chrissie Fit as an ill-advised Latina stereotype. This time the Bellas are trying to overcome a disastrous performance in front of Barry Obama himself by competing at the World A Cappella Championship. Beca (Kendrick) is also pursuing a career in the music business at the same time, unbeknownst to her teammates. But really, any difference between the plot of the first movie and the plot of the second movie is minor at the most. The first movie was an a cappella Bring It On, and the second movie is an a cappella Bring It On again.
What the sequel lacks in originality, it makes up for by being genuinely bigger than the first movie. Pitch Perfect 2 is funnier, for one- I laughed out loud more in this movie for sure. Their foe is bigger in Das Sound Machine, a German a cappella group inspired by…fascism, I guess? The directing is better and more assured, thanks to Elizabeth Banks, who also reprises her role from the first movie. But honestly, I preferred the ramshackle nature of the first movie. Pitch Perfect was a feel-good underdog story that seemed to come out of nowhere. Pitch Perfect 2 is a product, a commodity, and there’s nothing organic about it. But I laughed more, so there’s that.