Film #173: Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

pitch-perfect-2Director: Elizabeth Banks
Language: English and a bit of German
Length: 115 minutes
Watched on: 1 December 2015

The first of the month is movie service day in Japan, meaning that most (if not all) cinemas discount their tickets from 1800 yen to 1100 yen, in the greatest evidence of price collusion I’ve ever seen (very few cinemas make the effort to depart from the usual system of pricing and discounts and make themselves stand out). Just the tip of the iceberg in the great rant that is my criticism of the movie industry in Japan.

So it came to pass that I was in Shinjuku on December 1st, and after work, I decided I’d go to a movie at one or other of the many cinemas – but the one I’d originally wanted to see at the new cinema in Kabukicho (the one with a giant statue of Godzilla coming out of its roof, if anyone knows it) was fully booked, so I went back to Cinema Qualité, a small arty-leaning independent cinema near the station, to watch Pitch Perfect 2.

I liked the original Pitch Perfect – I watched it about two years ago, and have already written a review of it on here. So I guess I had high expectations for this one, and was hoping it would live up to the first one. I think it fell short of those expectations for a few reasons.

I did laugh a lot at this movie – I definitely remember the odd experience of being the only one laughing at the sexual puns and other jokes, which really flew over the heads of the Japanese speakers in the theater, presented with presumably inadequate subtitles. But I found that the characters and storyline had very little development compared to the last one. In that other film, I had a sense of suspense when they were competing against the other teams, but in this one, I found that it overshot the mark a few times, and I thought that the songs weren’t developed well – it’s mentioned that they’re developing routines, but in the movie they just spring fully-formed from nowhere.

There are also an awful lot of single-joke characters, and this often veers into directly racist territory, a vibe I never got from the original in the same way. For example, there is a character from Central America strongly implied to be an “illegal immigrant”, and who often makes outlandish comments about how much violence she’s been through, to which the other characters just shrug and ignore her. Or there’s the black lesbian who does nothing but hit on the other female characters, and has no character of her own other than being a black lesbian (she was a bit more developed in the original, if I remember correctly). Or the whole bit with the Germans – it works when they mock Kraftwerk in the musical segments, but apart from that, they’re lazy caricatures.

As for Rebel Wilson’s character, Fat Amy, the joke is also wearing thin, although the actress’s performance is absolutely on point and most of the funny one-liners come out of her mouth. There’s a romance subplot between her and one of the male characters, which is awkward to watch, as the movie is clearly pointing at her like “isn’t it funny? She’s so fat and he’s normal”. Her whole character has that vibe around her.

That aside, I’d still class this movie as a feel-good movie, and I loved the performances and the singing. I left the cinema satisfied. It’s just the plot and a lot of the jokes that fall flat, or more accurately, are okay but not as good as the original.

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