If you have a thick skin and a taste for the crass and politically incorrect, this film will be your baby.
As is the age old trend with unplanned blockbuster sequels, the film takes the same characters and plotline and creates a slight remix that never quite lives up to the beat of the original. Our attention is split between the painfully embarrassing (you can’t watch but you can’t not watch) romance between Fat Amy and Bumper (who seems to cling tenuously to the edge of this film for the purposes of providing a pathetic stab at a love interest to rake in the viewers) and the journey of over-excited starlet Emily, the Bellas’ new legacy. The Bellas compete with a German a capella group to win worlds after an unfortunate mishap that causes their national tour to be cancelled.
Perhaps I’m simply a relentless cynic, sitting behind my desk clutching a cup of tea and appraising the performance of the clearly talented, gazelle-like Hailee Steinford, but I can’t help but feel that she has been injected into the film the same way that adrenaline is jabbed into the heart—as a last ditch attempt to resuscitate a lifeless and lost plot. She is the spice in the pie, the fresh-faced, quirky, off-beat lovable character whom we fail to love simply because she is not one of the original Bellas from the film which (only) some of us have grown so emotionally attached to. We can also sense a shift in focus from the preppy freshmen motif of the first movie to the post-adolescent, entering-the-real-world anxiety of the senior Bellas. This in itself feels like a resignation, like a sign from the producers that they have squeezed as much juice as they can from this particular lemon, and it’s time to graduate the Bellas and shut up shop.
Easily the most excruciating, screwing-up-facial-features, clutching-head-in-hands, hysterically unfunny aspect of the movie is the banter between commentators John and Gail. Perhaps there are viewers out there—and I apologise profusely if there are—who have a Swiftian nose for satire and can sweep aside any reservations they may have about mocking the treatment of almost every social minority group in the Western world, but I’m not one of them. Watching these two characters is how I imagine a cat feels when you slyly change the direction of your hand as you’re rubbing it along its back, so that its fur sticks up in grumpy disarray. The one meagre crumb of positivity to be mustered from this is continuity between the two films—granted, they were infinitesimally funnier in the first film, but my guess is that if you loved the first film, you will love the second too.
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The film’s redeeming humour lies in the hands of Fat Amy (why does it still feel so politically incorrect every time I type that name? For those who haven’t seen the film, this is a self-proclaimed title). Her awkward relatable humour and brazenness characterises the film and brings out the sweetly nostalgic tenor of togetherness that saves the it from its atrocious plotline. This, coupled with the sensational choreography and soundtrack, gives the film a kind of aesthetic and audio quality which has an entertainment value unto itself. The movie retains the essence of the original just enough to justify watching it in order to enter this musical paradise one last time and suck on the bones to get a little taste of the original, but it is by no means an original or amusing sequel.