‘Pitch Perfect’: The Cult Sleeper Hit Spawning Sequels

With the third film in the a capella-based franchise starting shooting this week, I thought I’d look back at how an unexpected sleeper hit has become a blockbusting trilogy.

pp 1When an original comedy about a college a capella group hit screens in late 2012, it came out of nowhere, becoming a huge hit that earned big money and made its way into every aspect of pop culture. It gathered an instantaneous cult following with its quotable lines and original and quirky characters, and seemed destined to join the ranks of beloved comedies.

As seems to be the way these days, after this huge success…a sequel was announced.

It wasn’t a sequel that would have been expected otherwise. The first film ended at a point that was fairly open, but not to the point that you might expect a continuation. The storylines were all tied up, and the characters were in a good place with opportunities that set them up for the next college year. The end’s payoff was earned and didn’t necessarily leave the audience hungering for what happens next.

However, fans can often embrace sequels; they provide more time to spend with beloved characters, and allow them to reenter a world that had entertained them so much the first time. So, an unexpected sequel can still be a welcomed one, provided it is done right. However it can be very risky, sometimes just ending up as a more diluted repeat of the original, or an attempted copy that loses tone and charm.

pp 2Whilst Pitch Perfect 2 was still an entertaining comedy, it suffered a little from a dilution of character, and loss of the tone that made the first film so appealing; common symptoms of sequels. In an attempt to fit in new characters, many of the ensemble were reduced to one-dimensional characters, opposing part of what made the first film so great. Becca lost a bit of her edge and sharp tongue (although this could be put down to character progression), every line of dialogue for Cynthia-Rose was in reference to her being a lesbian (and became quite predatory at that, in an arguably outdated play for laughs), and a new character was added that simply repeated the gag Lily had in the first film – saying nothing, and then some random strange things at strange intervals. As a result of this, the sisterhood created in the first film is not felt quite as strongly, and the quirky unique nature that cultivated its status as a cult hit gave way to a more bland comedy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this was by no means a film that would enter the canon of forgotten or ignored sequels, but will become a smaller, lesser-watched side serving to the original. It is still funny and entertaining, and not necessarily damaging to the original, but just diluted the brand a little. It also did a great thing for female directors, with the success of Elizabeth Banks’ turn behind the camera.

Perhaps the original would stand as stronger if it was on its own, but the sequel has helped to integrate it more firmly into pop culture and the zeitgeist. Hopefully the third film rounds off the trilogy nicely, and doesn’t feel like a wasted trip. We’ll have to wait until December to see.

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