Pitch Perfect 2

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins

Written by: Kay Cannon and (based on the characters created) Mickey Rapkin

Running Time: 115 mins

Cert: 12A

Release date: 15th May 2015

The surprise smash of 2012 was a small-scale comedy about a cappella groups. Now, the all-female Barden Bellas are back, this time with a new director, a bigger budget and virtually more of the same as last time, only less successful than before.

The Barden Bellas have become the queens of a cappella singing after winning the nationals three years in a row. At a concert in front of the President, disaster strikes and their reputation is left in tatters. Stripped of their title, the only chance of redemption is if they win the International competition, beating the conquering German group. An almost impossible task as no American group has ever won it.

Doing a sequel to a hit comedy is always tough because the things that made the first such a joy have to still be in place to please the fans, while at the same time bringing something a little new to the proceedings to stop it from being just a carbon copy. Unfortunately, what Pitch Perfect 2 does is it doesn’t even try to bring something different to the table. These are the same characters you loved, the same off-the-wall humour, the same tight harmonies in a wafer thin plot.

So at the heart of the story is the Bellas trying to return to their former glory after a public humiliation. Yet at 115 minutes, there’s a lot of time to fill with barely nothing. So we get fillers. Lots of them! A subplot involving Beca as she becomes an intern at a recording studio has some promise (including an amusing cameo from Snoop Dogg). There’s the introduction of a few new characters, including an immigrant member of the group who has a fixation with death, doom and disaster, all delivered with joyful glee, which does raise a smile. Apart from that, it seems like the rest of the film is one random scene after another.

There’s a moment when the girls are invited to some strange sing-off contest overseen by David Cross’s creepy scooter-riding host that seems to be there as an excuse for another competition similar to the sing-off in the swimming pool from the first film; an extended scene in which the girls go camping to bond, which introduces some dire sentimentality, and, of course, the over extended part of the first film’s biggest character, Fat Amy. This time, there’s a lot more of her. Some might say, too much!

When the film works, it is just as funny as the first. The comperes of the contests, Gail (Elizabeth Banks, who also makes her directorial debut here) and John (John Michael Higgins) manage to get the most controversial lines and thus the biggest laughs. There’s a sweet-natured romance between geeky magician Benji and newcomer to the Bellas, Emily and yes, the quietly spoken Asian member, Lilly, delivers a few random slices of surrealism. And while this these elements work, it just doesn’t seem to gel as well as the first time.

The musical numbers are as tight and as impressive as before. The inclusion of the German group adds a slight new dimension to the set-up, with their light shows and unusual choice of songs (Muse gets the treatment). It’s a pity the tightness in the songs weren’t there in the rest of the film.

Anna Kendrick as Beca gets to show her strengths in musicals once again but her character doesn’t seem to have developed. The same with Brittany Snow’s Chloe, now leader of the Bellas. Hailee Steinfeld brings some needed freshness as newcomer Emily, while Rebel Wilson, who is funny as Fat Amy, has now been given more of the limelight and instead of the occasional line, highlighted with a long solo number in which she is canoeing across a river.

I loved Pitch Perfect. It was unique, sweet and left you with a huge smile. Pitch Perfect 2 is still funnier than most comedies that have been out of late but it doesn’t rise to the success of original. Maybe if there is a Pitch Perfect 3, we need new characters to inject new life and maybe just a cameo from the overbearing Fat Amy.

3/5

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