No plot spoilers (is it really about the plot, anyway?). A couple of spoilers for…the types of jokes about to be told.
Pitch Perfect 2 is a weird, off-kilter movie. It feels satisfying in many ways (especially to the musical theater nerd in me), building off of the success and genuine enjoyment that the first Pitch Perfect kindled. Watching the first Pitch Perfect, one could imagine a kind of “Pitch Perfect test,” like the well-known baseline Bechdel test, for a storyline centered around women who work collaboratively (and unabashedly) toward a goal independent of romantic pairings.
The sequel carries some of that energy through. The realm of a cappella is refreshingly open about its striving toward decidedly “uncool” goals, not even in a hipster way, but in the bedazzled mode that many theater kids (and dancers, and singers, and other artists) know well. But it is also marred by heavy, thudding racial jokes and other duds that make pure enjoyment of the movie kind of impossible. See below.
- Lazy jokes about the Latina character being deported
- The Latina character basically only opening her mouth to make these jokes
- The Asian character being quiet and weird and did we mention quiet?
- A “butch” lesbian character whose main plot point is to get into the other characters’ pants
- White girls with cornrows
- A cappella “Worlds” competition that reduces every country to a painful stereotype
- The movie was directed by a woman and stars mostly women (the male romantic leads matter even less in this sequel)
- Women achieving things with other female mentors (takes this movie a step beyond the trope of female athletes/artists with surly male coaches)
- Complete absence of “women can’t be friends with other women” trope and “inherent” cattiness
- Unabashed enjoyment of an often denigrated artistic form (a cappella). In this movie, the cool kids are even more into a cappella, not less.
Watching this movie reminded me of what Eddie Huang wrote regarding the network adaptation of Fresh Off the Boat: that it was basically the TV equivalent of orange chicken (aka pretty gross), but since there wasn’t much else out there, he would eat it. Pitch Perfect 2 (and its predecessor) are hardly the feminist movies of our wildest dreams, but for now, they strike a good note. If that makes me a bad feminist (hello, Roxane Gay!), so be it. I’m still singing along.