Eaker vs. Eaker is the latest “send Alfred to the summer blockbuster movies so that he can curmudgeonly complain” event, but with a twist, cinema fans and friends! For the first time (without even knowing it), you voted to send Alfred and his wife, Aja, to the flicks and have them duke it out, publicly, about each so-called-blockbuster. Everybody here knows all about Alfred’s cinematic savvy, and his cranky-old-dog approach to film critique. Now, you get 2-for-1: Aja is Alfred’s beloved clinical and counseling psychologist partner, who loves to counter just about every cinematic point Alfred makes. And you, kind reader, chose to send us next to Pitch Perfect 2.
Okay, folks, here’s the story. First, we went to see Mad Max: Fury Road, which caused a bit of a controversy in the differing experiences between Aja and Alfred. We just got home from seeing Pitch Perfect 2. And this is literally what just happened six seconds ago:
“I am totally going to nail your ass on the next write up.”
Alfred cackles loudly, “Are you going to tell them about the snoring?”
“Well, I hated the the first one. But you know, that’s just me,” Alfred exhales a stream of cigarette smoke that betrays him. Yes, it is true. The man I adore stayed fast-glued to freaking Mad Max: Fury Road, which, really, was lame, and during Pitch Perfect 2 Alfred slept—not just slept—SNORED—through 35 minutes of it.
I am certain of only a few things. First, that Alfred was definitely awakened not by the noise of the onscreen dialog, but by my own howling laughter. In fact, I laughed so hard I farted. It was a small squeak, so I am sure that that is not what woke Alfred. Second, Pitch Perfect 2 was awesome, as the talent, dedication, precision, and sheer effort that it takes to perform as a triple threat (sing, dance, act) is one helluva task, and the entire cast nailed it solidly. Third, Alfred does not dance, only sings David Bowie songs in the shower, and only likes acting if his face is painted blue. So anything he tries to diss about this movie, do not, do not, do not listen to him. Trust me, I’m a doctor.
The appearance of Katey Sagal as a former “Barden Belle” singer was a wonderful surprise. Recently, she has taken on the gritty role of biker babe maven mom in the hit series “Sons of Anarchy.” (For the record, I loved SOA until they killed off Opie. After that, forget it, not even Katey as Gemma could keep my attention). I searched carefully Katey’s face, as her dramatic role in SOA portrays her with a lightly leathered look. Here, however, she brought both depth and a flightiness reminiscent of her “Married with Children” days.
Anna Kendrick’s acting and singing continue to be underrated by Hollywood at large. Jesus, this girl is smart. It is easy to track her intelligence and poise in her performances. She lets herself be vulnerable, singing a cappella, and leading the movie while stepping aside for the comic genius of the rest of the cast, especially Rebel Wilson’s “Fat Amy” and Hana Mae Lee’s “Lilly” (with her super-soft psychotic one-liners). I also laughed at the insane commentary and banter between director/actor Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as the judges. The only true fail was one comment that was intended to be funny but really turned me off, when Higgins’s character announces, “And that is why we shouldn’t send women to college.” FAIL. Redemption comes swiftly when Banks counters, “I thought you were going to say that you are gay” when he opens-mouth-insert-foot one time too many.
There is an openness regarding sexuality and gender identification throughout the film that should not be dismissed lightly. This is the material our kids are watching, this is the message that they are now receiving, and it is beautiful to see the affirmation on the big screen: everybody has the right to love who they love. There are several clever mentions of the questioning of sexuality during the college years, which was both hysterical and sweet as played off by Kendrick and crew. Pitch Perfect 2 is what it is: a popcorn movie, and, thanks to feminist thinking, men singing and dancing, women graduating and career planning, and the intermingling of cultures, it worked well.
I cringe to think what Alfred is writing, as he is already frowning, reaching for his coffee mug as he continues to pound his laptop. I imagine whatever he has to say about Pitch Perfect 2 is not going to be pretty. I’m also certain that his defense mechanisms of denial, rationalization, and intellectualizing will kick in, thus reducing an otherwise go see this summer sweetie to something to avoid like herpes. And no, Alfred does not have herpes. He does, however, have his Chaplin t-shirt on, so that makes me anxious as to what degree he is about to shred the only film on the list that you specifically voted to send us to see that I knew that I could remotely like.
Pitch Perfect 2 was not the stale sequel I imagined it would be at all. Rather, with dozens of great cameo appearances, killer choreography to great music mash-ups (Muse! Cameo! Lauryn Hill! The Temptations!) and almost constant truly funny narratives, this is worth watching, no matter what Alfred may say.
First, the above requires a response: I did not sleep 35 minutes. It was more like nodding off (and on) for10 to 15 minutes max. Unfortunately (and mercilessly) it was more on than off (and yes, Aja’s gales of laughter did jolt me awake). The experience might have been less agonizing had I actually slept 35 minutes (or longer). Rather, I felt myself identifying strongly with Jedediah Leland cutting out paper dolls and babbling incoherently to himself as he sat through Susan Alexander Kane’s wretched performance in Citizen Kane.
This movie (along with its predecessor) has been sophomorically labeled a “dancing chick flick” movie. Rather, it is the millionth retread of Rocky: the American underdog goes up against mean-spirited, nasty, arrogant opponents. The plot moves along like a paint-by-number set to its woefully predictable ending. There is little need to worry or complain about plot spoilers, because the only way this plot could be spoiled is if you have never seen a film before.
Sure, there are a few musical numbers, which are hardly spectacular. Hell, Hollywood was doing better with the musical genre eighty years ago. At least then, filmmakers knew the focus was supposed to be on the music, which is why the basicplot was: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. The plot is incidental.
However, Pitch Perfect 2 bombards us with a plethora of Porkys-styled crass, comic relief, which includes fart jokes and Fat Amy’s wardrobe malfunction. Naturally, there is plenty of sexual angst thrown in, which, per the norm, renders the film an even duller affair.
Yes, President Obama and first lady Michelle make an actual cameo, which is more entertaining than the film itself. One would expect a film written (Kay Cannon) and directed (Elizabeth Banks) by women to give the Barden Bella troupe some interesting female characters. Instead, we are treated to flat, one-dimensional stereotypes: an obese buffoon, a soft-spoken Asian, a nympho lesbian, a foreign girl dreading deportation, a “what am I gonna do after graduation?” preppy, and on and on.
There is a tad of antagonistic chemistry between the broadcasters: promiscuous Gail (played by Banks) and gay, misogynistic Republican John (John Michael Higgins), who are thoroughly bankrupt in the political correctness department. However, for once, I cinematically agree with Aja; their tit-for-tat carries on too long and is reduced to wearisome social media caricatures.
Each of the main characters gets a (pointless) subplot, which is padding for the actors’ egos as opposed to actual narrative development. One could rightly argue that characters in classic musicals were just as flatly etched; yet that was often (certainly not always) made up for by scene after scene of spectacular choreography. Here, we have the opposite issue of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). While George Miller’s film could have used more character development and a few less chase scenes, Pitch Perfect 2 could have used a half dozen extra numbers because, outside of the music, the filmmakers do not have anything to say or add to the original film. This is merely a retread. At least the first film had authentic energy in its choreographed numbers. Fatally, Banks does not have the rhythm for musicals , nor the pacing for comedy.
Pitch Perfect 2 is not even good at audience manipulation. When going against the favored-to-win Teutonic baddies, the Barden Bellas are never privy to their opposition’s emotionally crushing defeat.
A singular bright moment arrives when Beca (Anna Kendrick) improvises a studio duet with Snoop Dogg. It is an almost magically intimate moment in a film which desperately needed more of them.
P.S. My better half can excuse the film’s endless flaws with “it’s a popcorn movie,” but, as she is well aware, I do not actually like popcorn. Besides, Pitch Perfect 2 is not gutsy enough to actually be a godawful popcorn movie. It is merely banal, and that leaves a far worse taste.