Plot: In the new series for Peacock, several years after we last saw him in “Pitch Perfect,” Adam Devine’s Bumper Allen moves to Germany to revive his music career when one of his songs becomes big in Berlin.
Review: If you ever asked yourself which character from the Pitch Perfect franchise was worth getting their own spin-off, Adam Devine’s Bumper Allen was probably at the bottom of the list. An antagonist in the first film and a side character in the sequel, Bumper shifts the focus from the competitive World of acapella music to Germany. With fellow Pitch Perfect 2 alum Flula Borg reprising his role as Pieter Kramer, Bumper in Berlin is everything the series title makes it out to be and not much more. While it has some harmless laughs and fun musical moments, this series misses the point of why people connected so much with the feature films by following a character that isn’t all that interesting.
While I do consider myself a fan of Adam Devine going all the way back to Workaholics and more recently on The Righteous Gemstones, the character of Bumper was mostly annoying in Pitch Perfect rather than endearing. While Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy was a breakout in the film series, her relationship with Bumper always felt tacked on. Now, with the absence of all of the main cast from the movies, Bumper In Berlin feels like a stretch for Universal to keep their franchise IP alive and kicking. The shift to Berlin is similar to Pitch Perfect 2 heading to the World A Capella Finals in Copenhagen, but with the extended running time of a series format, we get a lot of time to poke fun at German culture and stereotypes about the country.
The half-hour episodes make it a little easier to binge through the series which feels more like an extended movie than a television show. In the first episodes, Bumper makes his transition from the Tonehangers to trying for a solo career in Germany which also introduces the supporting cast. Sarah Hyland plays aspiring singer and Pieter’s assistant Heidi in a refreshingly honest performance that is completely different than her ditzy Modern Family character. Lera Abova is also fun as Pieter’s sister Tea (aka DJ Das Boot), a musician and producer who helps Bumper come up with a track to perform at the massive Unity Day concert. It is at that concert that Bumper will go up against Pieter’s former girlfriend and bandmate, Gisela. Played by Jameela Jamil, Gisela is similar to her recent turn in She-Hulk. Jamil has the looks of a supermodel but the comedic timing of the best out there. She makes for a solid antagonist opposite Bumper, Pieter, Tea, and Heidi.
As the series progresses, Bumper In Berlin echoes the basic formula of Pitch Perfect by having a group of singers literally band together and learn how to perform as a unit. Where Anna Kendrick’s Beca was a reluctant performer who learned how to coexist with other personalities, Adam Devine’s Bumper is a delusional doofus who is clinging to his college days. Devine often plays very similar characters and Bumper here is a lot like Kelvin Gemstone: both are self-absorbed and think far more highly of themselves than they have any right to. The biggest difference here is that Bumper starts to become endearing as the series progresses, something that often gets undermined by putting his foot in his own mouth on countless occasions. It does help that the supporting cast balances each other out, especially Sarah Hyland. Hyland and Devine played love interests over twenty-two episodes of Modern Family and the chemistry they shared carries into these performances as well.
Developed from a story by Elizabeth Banks and Megan Amram, this series was developed by Amram (The Good Place) alongside a writing staff who mine as many German jokes as they possibly can. We still get a ton of a capella puns and tons of references to various songs, retro and contemporary. The first episodes of the series are directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, best known for helming A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas as well as the excellent The Finals Girls. Strauss-Schulson does the best he can with the thin material which never looks like a low-budget television production. The series is at its best when it is delivering musical performances which Devine gives his all to. There are some solid mash-ups and original songs, but it eventually feels like a lost season of Glee with slightly better jokes.
Clocking in at just under three hours for the whole season, Bumper In Berlin is not a massive commitment to watch and will elicit some mild laughs between the catchy musical segments and culminates with a feel-good ending that could potentially continue with a second season if the ratings are good enough. Personally, I would have liked this to have been a bit more connected to the Pitch Perfect franchise or distance itself entirely as it feels like it is cashing in on the franchise name without really being able to be its own thing. The jokes are funny but could have been funnier had this not been saddled with protecting the brand. As it is, there is nothing wrong with Pitch Perfect: Bumper In Berlin, it just isn’t as catchy as it thinks it is.
Pitch Perfect: Bumper In Berlin premieres on November 23rd on Peacock.
Originally published at www.joblo.com