Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pitch Perfect 2

Year 8, Day 218 - 8/5/16 - Movie #2,413

BEFORE: Maybe I should have tried a little harder to cram some more films into the chain last week, because now it seems that a back-to-school film is scheduled just a bit too early.  I don't seem to have any other high-school or college-set films on the list, but maybe something will arise.  

Keegan-Michael Key carries over from "Vacation".  

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Pitch Perfect" (Movie #1,522)

THE PLOT:  After a humiliating performance at The Kennedy Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform.

AFTER: I may be tough on time-travel films, but I'm even tougher on films about a cappella, because I used to be part of that world, back in the late 1990's for a time.  It's a tough racket, performing and arranging and trying to get your group some recognition, and I didn't like when "Pitch Perfect" made it look so easy.  "Oh, we just need to rehearse more - great, we won!" and "Guys, I have this like superhuman ability to mash songs together, so I'll just do it!"  People study music for YEARS to be able to arrange medleys, and to suggest otherwise would be like making a film where kids build a rocket in their backyard and it takes them to the moon.  Or, you know, maybe a time machine.

The other two things I didn't like about "Pitch Perfect" were the overuse of the two commentators DURING the performances (the competitions don't have running commentary like sports does, because then people wouldn't be able to hear the singing) and the infamous riff-off that took place in the empty pool.  Because to have that level of continuous singing - the next group has to jump in at the right moment, the song has to be on the same topic AND a word has to carry over from one song to the next - you would need to have the whole thing planned out in advance for all that to happen, and the battle was (allegedly) spontaneous.  Oh, and the members of each group seemed to all know what their lead singer was going to do, without discussion, so that implied some kind of group ESP or mind-meld.

On the first point, "Pitch Perfect 2" still has the commentator (I'm sorry, the word has too many syllables, it should be "commentor", because they comment, they don't "commentate") characters, but now they host a podcast about a cappella.  This is a slight improvement over speaking DURING the performances - but still, who the heck is listening, when they could be listening to the singing, instead of people talking about the singing?  And wouldn't the real fans rather see the performances as well, like the stage moves and such?  It seems like their only podcast audience would be blind a cappella fans.

On the second point, same old problem.  There's a "secret" a cappella sing-off, hosted by a weird millionaire in his enormous private ballroom or something, and somehow groups from around the world find their way there, even though the world championships are in a totally different country.  At least this time words don't have to carry over from song to song, but the BEAT does - this is a bit more reasonable.  But again, one assumes that when the lead singer says "I got this one!" somehow his group will immediately fall in line with backing vocals, even though he never told them what song he was about to break into.  Well, what key is he going to sing in?  Which part is everyone going to cover?  Why don't 3 people in the group say, "Wait, what's my starting note?"  Sure, they're supposed to be good singers, but they're not mind-readers.  Maybe they've got a few arrangements worked out in advance, but this ability to demonstrate the group mind-sing is really far-fetched.

Plus, and here we're in total NITPICK POINT territory, why would a singer tell his group, "I got this one!" when he clearly didn't have an idea?  Would a baseball outfielder say "I got it!" when he's nowhere near the ball?  This didn't make any sense.  And on a seemingly random topic, another singer claimed to be an expert, and then proved that he was anything but.  Very contrived, but the plot demanded that certain groups be eliminated at certain times, to help move the scene along.

Obviously, I realize the entire sing-off was carefully arranged in advance.  A cappella is not a sport like tug-of-war or mud wrestling that anyone can just jump into.  Speaking of those things, the Bellas do go on a retreat to work on their team-building skills, and this does help them develop some group harmony.  But group harmony does not always translate into vocal harmony.  Again, the singing and arranging process is simplified by implying that if the team can live together, they can sing together.  Not necessarily true - but I get it, who wants to see boring practice, practice, practice during a movie when you can have a "Rocky"-like training montage, which also doesn't give away what songs will be sung in the competition?

I did like that the girls started making plans for their lives after graduation - after all, who attends college for seven years just so they can stay in an a cappella group?  Time for more of the Bellas to age out of the program, since most of them look like they're in their 30's anyway.  But that's only because most of them are in their 30's - it's time to stop playing college kids.  The group gets one new member in this film, but logically there should have been more turnover, because not all the Bellas in the first film were freshmen.  And with "Pitch Perfect 3" coming out next year, it's going to be harder to contort all of the graduates into the plot, unless they form a new group together after college.

Hmm, I just realized that both "Vacation" and this film had a similar subplot, about a woman returning to her old college for a visit.  Damn, I'm a programming genius.  Time for two more quick NITPICK POINTS: first, the wardrobe malfunction in the opening scene.  Why the hate for the female anatomy?  I'd wager that there were a lot of men (and probably some women) who enjoy viewing the female form.  Sure, it may have been inappropriate, but why depict such a negative reaction from the audience to seeing a part of a woman's body?  Aren't we supposed to teach our children to be proud of their bodies, and to not body-shame others?  Doesn't this seem to counter-act that attitude?  I remember when Janet Jackson had her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" (also, totally planned, BTW, so not a malfunction) during that Super Bowl, and sure, there was a lot of flak from offended people, but you know there had to be just as many, if not more, people who enjoyed seeing a naked boob during a major sporting event.

Secondly, I appreciate that the a cappella group from India was called the Naan Stops.  But for a group of ladyboys from the Phillipines, is "Manila Envy" really the best name you can come up with?  Geez, even "Manila Folders" would have been better, because it sounds like a reference to tucking.  "Manila Wafers", "Manila Extract", "Manila Ice Cream"?  I don't know, there's a better pun out there somewhere.  Unless they were called "Manila Envy" because they couldn't call them "Philli-Penis Envy".  Ah, maybe that's the joke.  That took me way too long.

With regards to Beca's secret internship at the record company, I get that she wants to show off her superhuman mash-up skills to her boss.  But when given the task of improving a famous star's insipid Christmas album, why not suggest that the Bellas sing background on the tracks?  That way she wouldn't be betraying her group by working for "the man", she'd be giving them a way towards possible recording work.  And it worked for Cee-Lo Green, who featured the a cappella group "Straight No Chaser" on his Christmas album.  And I guess that showing someone staring at a laptop and soundboard with headphones on is the new version of a writer staring at a typewriter with a blank page, huh?

But why all the hate for German people?  Aren't we as a country over World War II yet?  I'm of German descent and know some German people, and they're not all humorless robotic genetically perfect Aryan-type specimens - can't we get beyond this?  It felt like they were using leftover jokes from "Dodgeball" or "Beerfest" - for that matter, why does the Asian girl have to be ultra-Asian and the Mexican girl ultra-Mexican?  You would think that after living in America, they'd be more adapted to the culture - but why let logic ruin some cheap ethnic humor?

Also starring Anna Kendrick (last seen in "Into the Woods"), Rebel Wilson (last seen in "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb"), Brittany Snow (last seen in "Pitch Perfect"), Hailee Steinfeld (last seen in "Ender's Game"), Skylar Astin (last heard in "Wreck-It Ralph"), Adam Devine (last seen in "Neighbors"), Anna Camp (last seen in "The Help"), Ben Platt, John Michael Higgins (last heard in "Planes: Fire & Rescue"), Elizabeth Banks (last seen in "Love & Mercy"), Alexis Knapp (last seen in "Project X"), Hana Mae Lee, Ester Dean, Chrissie Fit, Flula Borg, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, David Cross, with cameos from Snoop Dogg (last heard in "Turbo"), Jason Jones (last seen in "Hot Tub Time Machine 2"), John Hodgman, Joe Lo Truglio (last seen in "They Came Together"), Reggie Watts, Rosie O'Donnell (last seen in "A Very Brady Sequel"), Rosie Perez (last seen in "The Counselor"), Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aquilera, Pharrell Williams, Joe Scarborough, Robin Roberts, and the real group Pentatonix.

RATING: 6 out of 10 hate mail letters

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