Adam Devine Revives the Franchise

Dec 31, 2022

Home TV Reviews ‘Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin’ Review: Adam Devine Revives a Franchise That Faded From the Spotlight

Goofy in all the right ways, this spin-off series injects some welcome new life into the Pitch Perfect world.

Image via Peacock

In keeping with the franchise’s trend of using song lyrics as gags, I’ve got another confession to make: Pitch Perfect had completely lost me. It started out with a strong opening film back in 2012 that was light and fun, though didn’t really need to carry on beyond that. The second entry was serviceable, but largely forgettable. However, by the time we somehow got to a third film, all that could be explored with the now-graduated Bellas had been largely exhausted. Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin, a spin-off television series centered around Adam Devine’s titular side character of Bumper Allen, sounds like it absolutely shouldn’t work. Not only has he also graduated, but the story up until now had also seemed to largely run out of compelling comedic ideas of what to do with Bumper himself.

That makes it all the more of a pleasant surprise that this series manages to be good fun. A fish-out-of-water comedy that never takes itself too seriously, it sends Bumper abroad into Berlin after he is called by the similarly returning character Pieter Krämer (Flula Borg), who offers him a chance at success that has failed to materialize elsewhere. The hook is that Bumper has supposedly become a huge hit in Germany for a TikTok cover of “99 Luftballons,” which becomes a recurring gag of sorts that almost seems to be poking fun at itself in how this is apparently the only song that anyone knows from the country. Such is the idea behind this fantasy world where acappella performances are apparently hugely popular and capable of bringing mass attention to those who do them. Pieter himself was such a performer in the prior films, though has now become a music manager who takes on Bumper as his client with the promise of preparing him for a big final performance at the German Unity Day concert. It is a bit by the numbers, although a steady stream of jokes and gags ensures it keeps moving.

Image via Peacock

RELATED: ‘Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin’ Trailer: Adam Devine Struggles in a New Aca-Landscape

Bringing this all together is an ensemble cast that includes Modern Family’s Sara Hyland as Heidi, a talented singer-songwriter currently working as Pieter’s assistant, and Lera Abova as Pieter’s music producer sister Thea, who is currently much more successful than he is. There is an antagonist in Jameela Jamil’s Gisela, though, much like this year’s She-Hulk, she is mostly relegated to being in the background to create conflict here and there. This doesn’t doom the affair, as the main focus is the ragtag team of Bumper and company. Everything is just about getting to the next bit as there are riffs on their own version of Hot Ones, though it is sour pickles instead of wings, and an extended bit involving a scene-stealing Udo Kier that is just delightful. While Devine is the one who often takes center stage, some of the best jokes come from those around him. In particular, while he was very much a minimal side presence in the film series, Borg is a solid comedic force to build around. Though he may be most known to many for his brief yet memorable presence in the recent The Suicide Squad or when bantering with Conan on talk shows, it is nice to see him really flex his comedic muscles here. He commits to lines that are so ridiculous you can’t help but chuckle.

The part of this series that still struggles to find a comedic purpose is many of the musical interludes. While there are many that are quite funny in how they poke fun at themselves, there are multiple points where they either begin to drag or just feel forced. Even as it is baked into the foundation of this franchise, many of the songs start to feel tiresome and mostly based on referential humor that becomes a closed loop once the recognition has faded away. There is certainly a part of the show that seems to want to leave behind this acappella component to just be a more focused comedy, but it still gets stuck in diversions that feel too straight-faced when the rest of everything else is rather silly. Making matters worse is that many of the performances are often static and without any sense of energy, which can derail the comedic momentum of everything else. It certainly can be funny to see a song recontextualized, but it is just not as engaging when compared to some of the more clever comedic moments that make up the rest of the show. Following Bumper as an American idiot abroad who has no idea of what he is doing or what everything is like in this country makes for some of the best bits. Bumper in Berlin isn’t the most insightful of political commentary by any means, but when he discovers that there is actually robust healthcare in Germany that is available to all, it offers a hint of a sharper skewering that is found among the escalating absurdity.

Image via Peacock

With that being said, the show shines when it leans into the silliness of it all. While it would be a stretch to call it an out-and-out spoof, there is a degree of self-awareness to everything that is almost whimsical. It makes for a comedy that is about breaking down the conventions of the underdog story even as it simultaneously leans into them. When a character remarks that “not every problem can be solved by being perky and optimistic,” it serves as a wink to the audience that provides an indication that it knows how these types of stories usually go. It then follows a similar path, showing how our plucky characters will always find a way, but it is cheeky enough to never lose hold of the prevailing comedic throughline of how playful everything is.

Does the show need any more episodes beyond these? The story certainly seems to set up for more, but this feels like it would be good just on its own. Of course, the mere fact that it all mostly works serves as a surprise, so maybe there could be more ahead. For now, Bumper in Berlin delivers where it counts in an unlikely expansion of a series that proves there is still fun to be had in this franchise.

Rating: B

You can watch all six episodes of Pitch Perfect: Bumper in Berlin on Peacock starting November 23.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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