by Tori Adams
From the October 2015 IssuePitch Perfect (Jason Moore, 2012)
By 2012, we had all just begun to cover up our unexplainable obsession with the a capella drama that became a sensation on Glee. Then Pitch Perfect debuted. It was a college centered comedy about an a capella group forced to leave their old traditions behind to battle their male rivals, providing a new collection of relatable underdogs to root for.
Jason Moore may have been a first-time feature director when he started working on Pitch Perfect, but he could not have been more suitable for the role. Prior to this, he had directed the musical, Avenue Q on Broadway (for which he was nominated for a Tony) and episodes of Everwood, Dawson’s Creek and One Tree Hill, giving him plenty of experience with the music world as well as that of awkward teenagers trying to navigate social cues. The movie starts off with the queen bee of the group spilling her guts all over the competition’s stage. Choosing such a blunt opening scene to kick off a movie that was marketed as a feel-good comedy is a risky, yet memorable decision that makes Moore truly stand out.
However, it’s the characters in the film that drive the side-splitting comedy. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) delivers pure awkward truths that make us wish we had come up with hysterical gags such as “horizontal running” ourselves. Furthermore, the film’s controversial judges, Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins), spew blatantly offensive comments that make it hard to hold back laughter.
The film is full of catchy musical performances such as the audition scene where potential members belt the emotional lyrics to “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson, all while looking hilariously dramatic and questionably talented. The most fun musical scene is the riff-off, a social event where the a capella groups effortlessly sing pieces from hit songs such as, “Hey Mickey,” “Feels Like The First Time” and “No Diggity,” making for an entertaining yet unexpected combination.
Pitch Perfect joins the ranks of other impressionable, over-dramatic commentaries on teenagers such as Mean Girls and The Breakfast Club. The film’s quirky characters and sarcastic dialogue make this film a hit, especially with its female young-adult following.
Pitch Perfect 2 (Elizabeth Banks, 2015)
Pitch Perfect 2 begins with The Barden Bellas (the main group from the first film) now three-year reigning national a cappella champs. Things go awry, however, when Fat Amy accidently flashes President Obama while performing the iconic “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus. This forces the hosts to replace the group with the Das Sound Machine, sending the Bellas on a mission to use their style and a new recruit (Hailee Steinfeld) to outperform them at the World Championship.
From the beginning, the theme of female empowerment amongst the sorority-sister-like members marks a change from the original movie’s epic battle of the sexes. This time around, the women are calling the shots and the male characters are only used to fulfil romantic subplots.
The writing is undoubtedly quick, satirical and chock-full of the same dry humor we enjoyed during the first movie. Nevertheless, the number of politically incorrect, racial and sexist comments has skyrocketed. Instead of using quirky character traits to drive the comedy, the characters are now reduced to props for reworked jokes. A new member, a Guatemalan exchange student named Flo, serves as inspiration for the Bellas by reminding everyone that things could be worse, like the time her brother once tried to sell her for a chicken. Jokes are made at her expense, hinting at her illegal immigrant status and even making light-hearted threats of sending her back to Mexico, even though she clearly states she’s from Guatemala.
After Pitch Perfect made Anna Kendrick’s “Cups” a hit, expectations for the music were set high. While the tracks in the sequel aren’t as contagious, there’s something to be said about the pressure of producing a film where the music almost speaks more than the script does. Not to mention, this movie heavily uses and promotes an original song, “Flashlight”, co-written by musicians Sia and Sam Smith (as well as by Jason Moore and Christian Guzman). Although the song isn’t as elegant as “Cups” may have been, this catchy pop song has become wildly popular.
All in all, Pitch Perfect 2 successfully maintained the comical elements and sense of college culture that made the first film so great while strengthening the theme of female empowerment; however, the added aspects of stereotypical humor have had controversial and possibly damaging effects on the film.
Pitch Perfect grossed $65 million at the domestic box office due to its sarcastic tone that has become popular in today’s comedies. Pitch Perfect 2 recreated the same social concepts with grace, allowing us to relive our favorite moments, such as the riff-off. Although the concepts of college culture were accurately recreated and the sequel was a bigger box office hit, the writing was distasteful. The slight implications of racial and sexist humor from the first movie were amplified in the second and although sometimes amusing, the backhanded comments made Pitch Perfect 2 to be a controversial and degrading film in comparison.