One of the more clichéd statements in cinematic history is that the first in a franchise, series, trilogy, or whatever you want to call it, is always the best. I cannot argue against this statement, though there are examples of the subsequent entries living up to their predecessor. The gold standard for this, of course, is the original three Star Wars films. “Gold standard” is a particularly appropriate descriptor here when you think about the number of trilogies that came before it. Go ahead, I will give you a moment to look it up. Done? I bet you did not find many. I am sure there are some, but none come to mind. There have been certain kinds of movies that one could look back on and call a collection of sorts. The Marx Brothers, for example, made a number of motion pictures together, but none of them were meant to be sequels to one another. The same could be said of the James Bond franchise. Star Wars, it seems, also initiated the three film cycle, the number that most production companies truly want from their products. And why would you not want to emulate this cinematic formula given the success George Lucas has enjoyed with his tales of a galaxy far, far away? Having said all this, I give you Pitch Perfect 2 (2015).
Since the first Pitch Perfect (2012), Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick) has been leading the all-female a cappella group Barden Bellas from Barden University. Her guidance continues in Pitch Perfect 2, and they continue to win championships. With the success comes fame, and they are asked to perform before President Barack Obama. Unfortunately, during their concert Patricia “Fat Amy” Hobart’s (Rebel Wilson) pants rip down the front and she ends up flashing the president and the other guests. This leads to the governing board, the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) to revoke the membership of the Barden Bellas. While this is disappointing, and embarrassing, it does not trouble Beca too much because she has begun to transition to a new job, being that she is a senior in college. She has taken on an internship at a recording studio, encouraged by her boyfriend and fellow a cappella singer Jesse Swanson (Skylar Astin). Still, her ties to the Bellas are strong as they are her friends and she does not want to let them down. Because of this, she agrees to a deal that will allow them to be reinstated by ICCA if they win the world championship. This task is made all the more difficult, though, because their suspension means that they cannot hold auditions for new members, and their spot on the world tour has been taken by a German a cappella group, Das Sound Machine (DSM), who use every opportunity they can to taunt the Bellas. Still, a loophole in the legalese allows for them to bring in freshman Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld), whose mother had also been a Barden Bella. This makes Emily a legacy, and she injects some much-needed enthusiasm into their group in the face of this daunting task. Now all they need is a venue to incorporate their new member, which they get from a strange character going by Sir Willups Brightlysmore (David Cross), who hosts a riff-off competition for various a cappella groups. The Barden Bellas and DSM are both invited. Naturally, they end up as the final two, but the Bellas lose to the intimidating Germans when Emily sings an original song, which is against the rules. This blow is compounded when a practice performance for the world championship results in a serious injury for one of the singers, and a great deal of dissension in the ranks. To smooth things over, Chloe Beale (Brittany Snow), the longest tenured Bella, suggests that they go on a group retreat led by their former captain, Aubrey Posen (Anna Camp). Her sternness was off-putting for Beca in the last film, but it is what the Bellas need in that moment. What truly brings them back together is a fireside chat where they all confess their troubles, including Beca’s preoccupation with the future that has been affecting her leadership. They all have been worried about roughly the same thing since many of them are graduating, meaning their opportunities to perform together are fleeting. It leads to them regaining their harmony, and the confidence that they need to head to Copenhagen for the world championship. Regrettably, they lose. Just kidding! Come on, that never happens in these kinds of movies. They win with a number that features Bellas past and present, and earns the respect of even the difficult to impress DSM. With everyone finished with school and their suspension lifted, there is only one last thing to do: fully initiate Emily into the Bellas with a traditional slide down their stairs of their campus house.
I know in introducing Pitch Perfect 2, I talked a lot about trilogies or series of films. This is the second of a trilogy, and I feel it is the perfect follow up to the first. In other words, there did not need to be a Pitch Perfect 3 (2017). Yet, they went ahead anyway. But that is a review for another time. For now, with Pitch Perfect 2, as discussed in the synopsis, there is a lot of angst over what the future is going to bring. This is understandable, and I find that it is people in college that worry the most. Yes, those same people that Hollywood would tell you care only about partying as much as possible seem, in my vast experience, to be the most preoccupied. This makes the film an honest portrayal, even if it is meant to be a comedy. It is pretty funny, too. It is difficult to tell a young person to entrust their future to God, which is what we should do no matter our age. We should be focusing on the things in the here and now because that is all that we can do. We cannot change the past, and only God knows what the future holds. If we remain concerned with these things, and adhere to that which God wants from us, everything will work out for us one way or another. Beca, though, is pulled in many directions. Past, present, and future all seem to spiral out of her control until she comes together with the people she knows best. It is, like prayer, a grounding for her. Think about that the next time you are feeling stretched thin, and remember God is always there for you.
Obviously, I am not in charge of deciding which films are made and which remain firmly planted in the mind of whoever is dreaming of what they believe to be the next big thing. This is no different with Pitch Perfect 2, though I would have green lighted its production. There is a bit of inappropriateness in it because Hollywood seems to believe these days that those kinds of jokes are the only way to be funny. Still, it is balanced with some sweet moments that compensate for the so-called rude humor. If you can handle such a balance, then proceed when the kids are in bed.
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