The charming and pleasant Pitch Perfect was one of 2012’s biggest surprise hits. You know what “surprise hit” means in Hollywood speak? Sequel! And here we are with Pitch Perfect 2, a bigger and flashier film than its predecessor – and in many ways better. Whereas the original took a more leisurely approach with its pace and musical numbers, Pitch Perfect 2 keeps the jokes and music coming at a rapid clip. Not everything sticks, of course, but more often than not it does.
It’s been three years since the events of the first film, and in that time that Barden Bellas have won three national a cappella titles. The good times come to end quickly as the film opens, when Fat Amy (Wilson) has a wardrobe malfunction during a performance at Lincoln Center in front of the President (as seen in well-used stock footage). Branded a national disgrace, the Bellas are banned from national competition. Their only chance at reinstatement is to win an international competition from which no U.S. team has ever emerged victorious.
Screenwriter Kay Cannon successfully manages a host of subplots, including Beca (Kendrick) taking an internship at a recording studio, Emily (Steinfeld), the new blood, joining the Bellas, and Fat Amy weighing her relationship with Bumper (Adam DeVine). An awkward dinner scene between the latter two stands as the only bad scene in the film, grinding the second act to a temporary halt. Cannon brings the one-liners and trash talk in heavy doses, giving the best material to inappropriate contest commentators John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and the rival a cappella group, Das Sound Machine. A fair amount of story structure from the first film is recycled, but Cannon and director Elizabeth Banks – making her feature film directorial debut – pump it up with life and energy. The musical numbers are fantastic, with the final performance surprisingly moving. Very little additional character development is offered, opting instead to play off each character’s established personality. Emily is set up as the protagonist but is just another character by the mid-point. A fifteen minute haircut would have tightened things up and reigned in a few scenes that drag.
It’s fair to wonder how much longer the formula and situations can stay fresh. What the Pitch Perfect films have going for them are fun characters and clever writing, both of which keep Pitch Perfect 2 from being a lazy rehash of the original movie. Cannon and Banks inject a lot of life and heart into the story and the enormous cast, all returning except for Steinfeld, brings it home. This is the rare sequel that’s bigger and better.
Studio: Universal Pictures
Length: 115 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for innuendo and language.
Theatrical Release: May 15, 2015
Directed by: Elizabeth Banks
Written by: Kay Cannon. Characters by Mickey Rapkin.
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld, Katey Sagal