Sunday, December 4, 2022

Review: Say Auf Weidersehen to the Barden Bellas and Guten Tag to ‘Pitch Perfect: Bumper In Berlin’

TELEVISIONPEACOCKReview: Say Auf Weidersehen to the Barden Bellas and Guten Tag to...

Based on the book by Mickey Rapkin, cult favorite musical comedy Pitch Perfect took audiences by storm in its 2012 debut. Not only did the production change the cultural landscape of film (teenagers and high school choirs were never the same), but it became one of the highest-grossing films in its respective genre and went on to garner an additional two movies to round out the series into a trilogy, which put out its final movie in 2017. Stars of the franchise such as Skylar Astin, Elizbeth Banks, Rebel Wilson, Ester Dean, and the unforgettable Anna Kendrick have gone on and continued to grow their successes in a variety of different ways.

Enter Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin. From the minds of alumni associated with the original trilogy as well as some new faces like Megan Amram comes this novel adventure in the Pitch perfect universe following… Bumper Allen? Now, I’m going to be 100% honest with you: as a middle schooler who lived through (and participated in) the peak of the Pitch Perfect fervor, this watch was headed off by a healthy dose of skepticism. In the past two to three years, I’ve seen franchises succumb to the pressure of the reboot, hoping to catch the lightning in a bottle that they managed to harness years ago in original works… and consequently falling very short. I was deeply afraid that Bumper in Berlin was going to be one of those shows that tried — and failed — to capture the essence of the original media that it stemmed from, something that in my opinion fails a good 99% of the time.

Additionally, like many fans, I was left wondering why the team behind this show specifically chose Bumper to center a spin-off around (personally, I’m still waiting to hear what Jesse has been up to… Skylar Astin if you’re reading this, I have questions). While a fan-favorite man we love to hate as well as great comedic relief in the original films, he was a character that definitely was explored in less depth in favor of others.

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However, when I began my watch, I was pleasantly surprised. One thing that I love about Bumper in Berlin is that it is very obviously not trying to be exactly what its predecessor was. The humor is more offbeat, the storylines don’t have the same flavor, and the overall tone is unequivocally different than the original source material. While the core element of what made Pitch Perfect what it was — the music — is still there, Bumper in Berlin managed to establish its own tone. Alumni Flula Borg and newcomers Sarah Hyland (who Adam Devine shares great chemistry with — likely aided by their time working together on Modern Family), Lera Above, and Jameela Jamil truly join together to form a quirky ensemble that brings an entirely new feel to the screen. And speaking of the music…

While a capella is still an extremely strong theme (I’m gonna go ahead and tell you… yes there is a riff off to look forward to — along with some interesting a capella lore surrounding them), the show continued to build on the theme of weaving original songs into the narrative that we saw introduced in Pitch Perfect 2. Additionally, music supervisor Justine von Winterfeldt did a great job of establishing the show as a separate entity from the originals by bringing a sound and music taste that was distinctly Bumper to the screen — you don’t see a lot of overlap in the types of songs that the Bellas would sing — lots of classic rock and German music (when in Rome, right?) that wouldn’t have fit in to the structure of the movies

Finally, we must talk about Bumper. Adam Devine, an executive producer on the show as well as the main character, easily falls back into the character that he began to portray 10 years ago. However, it’s obvious that Bumper has changed a bit. While he’s still the cocky a capella bro who’s dead set on chasing his dreams of music stardom, a few years of reality have softened him up a bit. I think those gap years of some (lonely) real adult living between the series and when this show is set are important, leaving room for character growth that you can see progress throughout the series. The time gap is essential in explaining the changes that Bumper’s been through and setting the scene for his journey throughout the season.

Overall, as long as you don’t go in with preconceived notions of the show and compare it to the original Pitch Perfect film franchise, I think fans are in for a fairly fun watch. While the first episode gets off to a bit of a slow start and the season’s ending felt a tad incomplete — with the show obviously angling for a second season to resolve some of the remaining plot threads –, this short series manages to bring back the nostalgia of the Pitch Perfect era without invoking the source material too much, creating a unique new story with a unique new feel.

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Bumper in Berlin is now available for streaming on Peacock.

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