The cult comedy hit Pitch Perfect was a breath of fresh air when it debuted in 2012, mixing zany humor with girl power and the acapella music fad popularized by shows like “The Sing-Off.” While its follow-up, Pitch Perfect 2, is somewhat uneven and less novel, the makers have beefed up the laughs and musical numbers, upped the stakes and added some new characters on top of the entire returning original cast. The sequel probably won’t have the lasting impact of the original, but it’s a lighthearted slice of summer cinema that’s worth the price of admission.
Hailee Steinfeld plays a new character named Emily, whom the story focuses on quite a bit, instead of Beca (Anna Kendrick). This is one of Pitch Perfect 2’s few missteps. While Steinfeld is an accomplished actress, having garnered an Academy Award nomination at 14 years old, her character is flat, and the part doesn’t allow her to exercise any dramatic or comedic chops. Kendrick’s sarcastic and awkward Beca was a more engaging and relatable protagonist. Good news is that writer Kay Cannon has also amped up Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and Bumper’s romantic subplot, which concludes in a hysterical musical sequence that could only work in a series like this one.
This sequel picks up three years after the original movie ends. The Barden Bellas have remained national acapella champions for those intermittent years, but tragedy befalls them on their last tour when Fat Amy accidentally exposes her lady parts during a high-profile performance for the POTUS. After creating a media firestorm, the Bellas are banned from competing, and the remainder of their tour is cancelled. However, the girls bargain that if they win the World Championship of Acapella, which is approaching shortly, they can be reinstated.
It seems that writer Cannon is capitalizing on the quirky humor that worked well in the first installment because the story is hokier this time around — I mean, the central conflict arises from an overweight Australian flashing her vagina at Obama on national TV. There is also a hefty dose of offensive jokes, of which about three out of four succeed, about every minority possible. Nonetheless, fans of Pitch Perfect aren’t going to care.
The movie struggles to find direction in the middle, which could be attributed to first-time director Elizabeth Banks, but it finishes with rollicking musical numbers and an uplifting message of female empowerment to compensate. Kendrick, Wilson and Brittany Snow, among the other girls, have a contagious chemistry that helps sell the more unrealistic scenes.
Once again, Pitch Perfect’s greatest strengths are its eccentric cast and the toe-tapping soundtrack. The performances feature even more of today’s chart-topping hits, from Beyonce’s “Run the World” to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” which are sure to score with the movie’s target audience. The Bellas chief competitor, Das Sound Machine from Germany, also delivers some memorable moments with their overdramatic interpretations of songs by the likes of Muse and Fall Out Boy.
Pitch Perfect 2 does what any sequel does best. It gives its fans more of what they loved from the original, but on a bigger scale. While that doesn’t necessarily mean this aca-sequel is better, it does guarantee viewers a good time, filled with sharp humor and a soundtrack worthy of downloading.