Okay, so…SEVERAL disclaimers before I get into this post. FIRST, I am a straight up nerd when it comes to a cappella stuff. Like, pre – original Pitch Perfect. I root for the USC teams every Spring Sing (UCLA, you host it, and I’m sorry – I’ve just always been a SoCal Vocals fan.) I’m still upset that Nota beat The Beelzebubs from Tufts University on season 1 of NBC’s “The Sing Off.” I just view a cappella as the music world’s version of practical effects, and I appreciate it a lot. SECOND, a friend at Universal invited me to visit the set of this movie where I somehow walked away with a new laptop. So I may or may not be a little biased. THIRD, after cute siblings – female friendships are maybe my favorite thing on this Earth. That is the one thing that truly drives this movie and this franchise. So again, maybe a little biased. FOURTH, I really just wanted to write this so I could complain about Universal. The social and marketing campaign for this movie was like….really…really bad.
Long story short, if you’re deciding whether or not you want to see the movie this weekend – because the trailer simultaneously shows pretty much the entire movie, but is also confusing. The movie is not any less confusing, to put it simply. The best summary I could give of this movie is that it is the buddy cop version of “Taken” where Rebel Wilson is Liam Neeson and Anna Kendrick is her unknowing assistant. There just also happens to be singing throughout. Again, that summary is not at all less confusing than the trailer, but I promise it’s an extremely accurate synopsis. Bottom line, it’s a fun watch for fans of the franchise. When deciding whether or not to see it, my friend Raj said, “Honestly. If it feels like I’m back hanging out with my old friends – I don’t really care about the plot.” I think that’s the exact attitude anyone should have going into the third installment of this franchise. (But also, they found a way to take the smallest, random plot point of Fat Amy’s character from the first movie and turned it into the lynchpin of this entire film.)
This might be a downside for a lot of fans of the franchise, but the music has very little to do with the movie. Aside from the riff-off, there are like…one and a quarter songs that are used to drive the story. With that quarter song being solely used to reassure people that one of the Bellas can sing. I think this was the movie’s best move though, because it pulls the focus on the characters and their relationships with each other – which I think is the heart of the franchise. Also, since we see very few numbers in full in the movie, we get full length songs on the soundtrack. The third soundtrack is hands down the best of the series. (A nerdy sidenote about the soundtrack. There’s a really cool moment during the “Toxic” track where they use different mono tracks to carry Hana Mae Lee’s voice from side to side. It’s timed to her running across frame in the movie. It’s really such a simple, and old school audio trick – but I always appreciate whenever anyone uses it.)
The soundtrack also includes some extra holiday tracks, which I thought was cute. A friend’s roommate also got a feature on the soundtrack, which means nothing to you, but is cool to me. I’ve also just been waiting for the soundtrack because they covered a song by someone who I’m morally opposed listening to (who is dating someone I knew in high school. Small world is small.) – but the song is catchy, so now I can listen to it guilt free. I do wish they had included a Fickle Friends track that was used in one of the opening scenes of the movie on the soundtrack. But that’s just because I’m a filthy hipster that’s been waiting for this band to get exposure in the US for years, so that someone will bring them over here to tour. The movie at some point also uses MIKA’s “Elle Me Dit” (the English version is called “Emily”) which is also a staple in my everyday playlist, so I appreciated that.
Before I get to complaining about the marketing of this movie, I want to say that if you look at this movie as a movie about friendship – you’ll enjoy it. If you go into expecting some movie musical marvel…go watch “The Greatest Showman.” This movie’s entire vibe is “how did we get a third movie?” along with them just spending every penny of their sequel money. I appreciate movies that are self-aware, and I feel like this movie definitely is that. It’s clearly just the cast having fun with poking fun at the characters they’ve portrayed over the years. Also, if you end up hating it – I feel like anyone can appreciate the last scene of this movie and the credit sequence. Almost never is the last scene of a movie shot on the last day of production, and to my knowledge, that’s what happened with this movie. So all the emotion of the last scene is clearly pure and genuine. The movie is super disjointed and ridiculous (in a fun way), but still really cute – and I’m all about that kawaii life. (ALSO. NOT SURE IF IT WAS IN THE SCRIPT OR IMPROVISED. BUT THIS MOVIE PORTRAYS A WOMAN OF COLOR AS ONE THAT COMES OUT ON TOP IN A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO ARE LOST, AND THAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT FOR SO MANY YOUNG GIRLS TO SEE. SO GOOD JOB.)
Okay, so now for my complaints about the way Universal went about pushing this movie. I’m just going to go straight for the jugular here. I think there’s a huge difference between talent using social media to acknowledge their fanbase and playing into an inside joke – versus something that comes from the studio. One just shows that the talent are paying attention to what fans want. One is taking advantage, and just feels kind of gross.
All of the movie’s official social media channels have always been kind of a lackluster regurgitation of posts from the cast. Obviously, social media marketing and utilizing all the features of each platform is a more recent development – so I’ll give them that leeway. It’s never bothered me as someone who works in the digital space, aside from the fact that it’s not THAT difficult to add some extra input into a repost, or just stock up on original assets. There was just one Snapchat ad from Universal that really made my entire being cringe.
I’m not sure if they brought this ad over to Instagram, I’m assuming they didn’t – because I think Universal would have received a lot more widespread criticism if they had. Or maybe it just wasn’t on Instagram in the United States. I think it’s short lived time of being shown on Snapchat only didn’t draw as much negative attention, because like…90% of Snapchat original content is already trash and a lot of people skip over it. But it was an ad that clearly came form someone that THOUGHT it was fan service. When I first saw it, I wanted to make sure that I just wasn’t being hyper critical – so I went in search of other opinions on the ad, and was relieved that other people felt the same way.
“This kind of teasing is just so wrong.”
“They couldn’t be anymore obvious with the baiting of a large portion of their fan base…”
Those opinions are from random people I don’t know on Reddit. I’m surprised they ran it. Because even in a 5 second ad, the two talent in the clip could not look anymore uncomfortable. I’m only not going into detail of the contents of the ad because I feel like a lot of people would blame the actresses involved, when I really think it falls squarely on the shoulders of the studio for even talking them into shooting that ad.
Luckily, Universal swung back around and are now really pushing the female friendship bit. They should have been doing that the whole time, but whatever. Long story short. Whether or not it was intentional, if a large portion of your audience is made up by an already marginalized group..shift their attention and give them something else to celebrate, especially if you know you won’t be servicing them in the way you know they want you to. The thing NOT TO DO, would definitely be taking advantage of their dedication and exploiting that. Especially since, more likely than not…there will be some fans that haven’t accepted that they’re in said marginalized group yet. It’s just irresponsible, in my opinion.
Okay. I’m done. (Even though I could go on forever about another marketing thing that bothered me, but that’s more of an every studio thing and not just Universal and this movie.) This really should have been two separate posts, but oh well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯