Entertainment

Movie review: ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ hits all the right notes

What It’s About

A cheerful follow-up to the 2012 a cappella singing group comedy, “Pitch Perfect 2” delivers what it promises: a light-hearted romp chock-full of high jinks and hilarity that is as enjoyable as the first effort, maybe more so.

This sequel to the surprise smash hit boasts fun cameos and lively jams on a bigger scale. The popular main characters are back, with slightly more developed story lines based on their characters’ progression and pursuits during the past three years. Beca (Anna Kendrick), the self-assured leader, frets about her dream of being a music producer while she interns with a high-maintenance music business legend, well-played by the quick-witted Keegan-Michael Key (“Key & Peele”), who nails the demanding honcho attitude.

Jovial Rebel Wilson, the breakout star as Fat Amy, returns with amusing one-liners and a romantic storyline with Bumper (Adam DeVine). Chloe (Brittany Snow) flunked a class to stay as a Bella, but Aubrey (Anna Camp) has moved on to an interesting career. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”) is added as a legacy, to freshen the plot.

No longer misfits but national champions, the Barden Bellas live together on sorority row. Female bonding and girl power are in plentiful supply in the film, confidently directed by Elizabeth Banks.

The Bellas run into trouble, on a global scale, humiliated after an unfortunate command performance. But they can redeem themselves on an international stage — the world championships. No spoiler alerts here — do not want to ruin the fun.

Performances

Singularly, actors have moments to shine, but together is where the action is and we connect with their struggles. The group’s individuals — a spry collection of goofy oddballs now blossoming through their talent, including low-talker Hana Mae Lee, pessimistic immigrant Flo (Chrissie Fit) and tough Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean), elevate their game as a group. Whether they are practicing over-the-top routines or letting off steam at a college party or sharing their feelings at a retreat, this cast is a bright, tight ensemble.

Kendrick’s smooth vocals propel the group numbers, but the vocal chops of the others are evident too, and the showmanship is striking. While there is likely not a runaway hit like “The Cup Song” in the new lineup, the tuneful score overflows with opportunities for people to show off their powerful pipes. Oscar nominee Steinfeld is good as Emily, and she can sing, too. Ben Platt is funny as her wannabe beau Benji.

A nice addition is Katey Sagal (“Sons of Anarchy”) as Emily’s mom and former Bella — she was one of Bette Midler’s original backup singers, The Harlettes. Skylar Astin returns as Jesse, but doesn’t have much to do besides be Beca’s supportive boyfriend. DeVine, so funny and different in “Modern Family” and “Workaholics,” is clearly a crowd favorite. He and Wilson merrily roll along, hooking the audience from the start.

Banks also reprises her role as the snarky podcast co-host, along with the hysterically droll John Michael Higgins. His deadpan delivery of arguably the best lines in the script is a hoot.

The German rivals, Das Sound Machine, are a necessary element — and evil — to the proceedings, and are stereotypical tough front woman and man (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen and Flula Borg).

But it was wise not to focus solely on them. The fabulous a cappella group Pentatonix is seen as the Canadian entry at the Worlds, while a parade of comedians and celebrities show up. David Cross (“Arrested Development”) is a strange rich guy enamored by cutthroat singing competitions. Be on the lookout for NFL players, singing show judges, and Snoop Doggy Dogg. And do not leave before the credits roll.

What Works

The good feelings fostered in the first movie carry over to this exercise, and the goodwill continues, sparked by the early “Glee” phenomenon. Screenwriter Kay Cannon, Emmy-winning writer of “30 Rock,” furnishes many laughs while the cast provides the charm.

What Doesn’t Work

The plot is predictable, and what happens isn’t as important or compelling as the relationships. The movie’s warmth, good humor and dynamic musical numbers are what stand out, and what draw people in — no matter what happens, you’d support the Bellas and the guys who love them.

3 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld, Anna Camp, Ben Platt, Skylar Astin, Joe Lo Truglio, John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks

Rated: PG-13 for innuendo and language

Length: 1:52

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