Pitch Perfect put the cheesy charm of the a cappella movement on the movie map, so naturally a sequel is going to give its audience more of the same, only bigger and better. That’s all you really need to know about Pitch Perfect 2, hitting screens courtesy of cast member-turned-director Elizabeth Banks. The first film saw Anna Kendrick‘s outsider/mash-up maestro find acceptance in the Barden Bellas before giving their beloved genre a good kick in the ass. Her character Beca formed the centre of a classic rite of passage tale, showcasing winning support turns from Rebel Wilson and Anna Camp.
With the tonsil-busting team established and all that angst out the way, Banks and screenwriter Kay Cannon can only tread water, returning us to the much-loved characters but this time without a lot of point outside of the impressive vocal gymnastics. There isn’t so much a story as a collection of bits and pieces, all of which manage to add up to a reasonably satisfying whole.
The script is basically concerned with how the Bellas get their groove back, after a catastrophic incident whereby Fat Amy (Wilson) gives President Obama an eyeful after the ultimate wardrobe malfunction at a prestigious performance. After that strong start the action roams around for the best part of two hours, taking in a raft of comedy goodness, from a romantic subplot between Amy and Bumper (Adam DeVine) to a Christmas album recording for Snoop Dogg. Halfway in the plot begins to go somewhere, as Beca faces the prospect of a juicy record company career away from campus and the spectre of the World A Cappella tournament looms large.
The tournament involves locking horns with Das Sound Machine, a terrifying German outfit of PVC-clad aca-warriors led by Borgen‘s Birgitte Hjort Sørensen. DSM are funny, but transplanted straight out of a cartoon, and they’re less then politically correct. These militaristic music-mongers feature in the movie’s most amusing sequences, such as the “riff off” at the home of eccentric enthusiast David Cross. This set piece displays all the energy and creative edge we came to associate with part one – in fact it’s better than the final showdown, which lacks danger and is followed by a somewhat abrupt ending.
Hailee Steinfeld plays Emily, a major new addition to the cast. She’s pleasant enough, but I’m not sure what she really brings to the table in a movie overflowing with characters in the first place. Kendrick is as likeable as ever, and Wilson wisely gets to do more this time round. Camp shows up in a smaller role, with Aubrey now running a country retreat used by the group later in the film. If anything Banks and Cannon ration the performers quite effectively. Skylar Astin returns as Jesse, but is scaled down in favour of Ben Platt‘s Benji, who romances Steinfeld. Not everyone is well-served – I found it hard to see why Chrissie Fit‘s offbeat dialogue was supposed to be funny (she comes out with far better material in the outtakes) and she’s doing the same joke as Hana Mae Lee‘s Lilly anyway. Banks herself has some choice moments in the company of sparring partner John Michael Higgins.
Universal haven’t skimped on the extras, with the Blu-ray carrying a long list of featurettes, bonus musical content, deleted scenes and a commentary. If you’re not all aca-ed-out by the end of the feature you can dive into various toe-tapping treats.
Pitch Perfect 3 is on the horizon, and it’s tough to see where the Bellas could go next. Saying that, the second instalment similarly had nowhere to go and went alright. Banks has succeeded in making an entertaining follow up, her directorial debut showing the kind of warmth, sass and sheer sense of joy that set its predecessor apart from the crowd. It’s far from perfect, but its pitch is in the right place.
This review appeared on The Hollywood News.