The first time Bumper Allen (Adam Devine) meets music producer Thea (Lera Abova) in Peacock’s Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin, she’s skeptical about his probabilities of making it as a singer. He has, she brusquely declares, a “backpfeifengesicht — a face that is deserving of a slap.”
Bumper, who’s heard it earlier than, takes her remark in stride: “It’s my round cheeks, coupled with my whole personality.” Indeed, Bumper’s slappability is exactly what made him so enjoyable within the first Pitch Perfect — his ever-present smirk and bullying methods made him not solely simple to hate, however enjoyable to root in opposition to.
Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin
The Bottom Line
A tiresome extension of a drained franchise.
As Bumper nicely is aware of, nevertheless, not each member of an ensemble is destined to interrupt out as a solo act, and that sadly proves to be the case in his eponymous TV spinoff. The collection, created by Megan Amram and Elizabeth Banks, isn’t solely charmless; it advantages from a recreation forged and a smattering of respectable snort traces. But they’re stretched too skinny throughout an in any other case pointless collection with few recent concepts and a wearying protagonist.
Though Bumper in Berlin picks up a number of years after the Pitch Perfect films, not a lot has modified for Bumper Allen for the reason that second installment. As of the premiere, directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, he’s nonetheless rattling round Barden University as a safety guard, his hopes of musical fame dwindling by the day. Then Pieter (Flula Borg) — beforehand seen in Pitch Perfect 2 as a part of Das Sound Machine, “the rival a cappella group to my former a cappella group’s rival a cappella group,” as Bumper helpfully recaps — calls with an out-of-the-blue supply. Bumper’s TikToks have gone viral in Germany, unbeknownst to him, and Pieter needs to handle his path to bona-fide success.
Bumper in Berlin carries on the Pitch Perfect comedic custom of pretending a cappella is a approach larger deal than any actual individual in the true world would possibly fairly consider it to be. As it seems, Pieter has an ulterior motive for luring Bumper throughout the Atlantic: Bumper’s shot at stardom can also be Pieter’s grasp for redemption, since Pieter has by no means recovered from a dishonest scandal that turned Das Sound Machine into “Germany’s second greatest shame.” (To which Bumper responds, “What’s Germany’s first greatest — oh. Yeah.”) If Pieter’s profession is on the road, so is that of Heidi (Sarah Hyland), his unfailingly loyal assistant. And as soon as Pieter manages to persuade his sister Thea into working with them, backpfeifengesicht or no, so is hers.
As charted over six half-hour episodes, Bumper’s path towards success solely sort of is smart. Surely a super-specific Unity Day live performance slot isn’t the solely approach to launch an leisure profession within the age of social media? Surely nobody actually expects Bumper, or anybody else, to put in writing an unique hit single in a day? But it features nicely sufficient as an excuse to string collectively an array of musical numbers, starting from acoustic ballads to Gaga-esque pop productions. (The latter comes courtesy of Bumper’s rival Gisela, performed by Jameela Jamil in Titania mode.) As befits a Pitch Perfect undertaking, there’s a rendition of “Barbie Girl” set at an artwork gallery that captures a cappella’s distinctive skill to look, without delay, completely cringeworthy and sort of cool.
The plot additionally yields no finish of jokes, a few of that are fairly humorous — I laughed at loud on the sick burn of an avant-garde artist (visitor star Udo Kier) reacting to a routine interplay with “I wish I could say it was a pleasure but then, what is pleasure?” Too lots of the punchlines, nevertheless, boil right down to both “Germans, am I right?” or “Americans, am I right?” More than as soon as, Bumper incredulously asks, “Are you serious?” solely to be instructed, “I’m German, of course I’m serious!”
If nothing else, Bumper in Berlin does make a stable showcase for Borg as a rising comedic star. The awkward but imposing Pieter launched in Pitch Perfect 2 has been humbled into somebody softer, dorkier and extra earnest. He’s significantly touching in scenes that lean on the sibling dynamic between Pieter and Abova’s effortlessly cool Thea, and his guileless enthusiasm nearly sells groaner traces like “All you need to do is ask yourself, Will I Am or Won’t I Am?”
The collection moreover serves up ample alternatives for Hyland to indicate off a really fairly singing voice — even when her will-they-or-won’t-they with Bumper, which begins with the pair bonding a couple of minutes into the premiere over their behavior of taking capsules by wrapping them in American cheese “like a dog,” feels extra just like the product of a screenwriting formulation than of real chemistry.
But then there’s Bumper. The collection struggles to string the needle between making Bumper terrible sufficient to be recognizable from earlier Pitch Perfects (the place he’d do stuff like throw meals at a rival, for the sheer pleasure of ruining her day) and likable sufficient to champion as an underdog hero. It settles on making him a man-child so silly he’d throw away his passport below the belief that it’s a one-time-use doc. Devine, confronted with the unimaginable activity of creating a plausible individual out of those half-hearted contradictions, leans on what quantities to an unofficial Jack Black impression — which solely serves to underline that he’s no Jack Black.
With a central character who’s extra exhausting than endearing, a shrug of a plot and jokes that miss as typically as they hit, Bumper in Berlin begins to look an terrible lot like a sequel that exists not as a result of its makers had some sensible story they wanted to share with the world, nor as a result of followers had been clamoring for the additional adventures of this supporting character, however as a result of Universal couldn’t bear to let a once-successful franchise lie fallow. Perhaps it’d have been higher off leaving Bumper in Barden, and directing its energies as an alternative towards simply reminding those who the far superior Pitch Perfect remains to be streaming on Peacock.