Pitch Perfect, released in 2012, ended with a cliffhanger– what would be the new audition song for acapella wanna-bes? In Eliazbeth Bank’s Pitch Perfect 2, we never find out, but we are reunited with beloved characters and are introduced to new singers, songs, and so many rompers. It’s been a few years, and the Barden Bellas are now three time national champs preparing for a national tour, until an incident at Lincoln Center strips them of the opportunity and threatens the group’s livelihood. Then there’s Emily (Hailee Steinfeld, who I last saw in “Bad Blood”), one eager-beaver of a freshman, hoping to join the group her mother (Katey Segal) loved so much– yep, Emily is a Bella “legacy,” because now the Bellas have a house and bloodlines and are essentially a sorority.
Let’s cut to the chase and say there is not enough Jesse (Skylar Astin) in this movie, though there is plenty of Bumper (Adam DeVine) and Benjie (Ben Platt, the only one who’s seemed to have aged. Magic is hard.). This sequel recognizes some of what worked so well in the first film, like announcer John’s (John Michael Higgins) sexist commentary and anything done by Fat Amy (the luminous Rebel Wilson), but also mocked the ridiculousness of its predecessor, evident in its riff-off sequence held in the home of an unnamed super fan (played by a southern, scooter riding David Cross). If you thought the abandoned pool from the first movie was weird, brace yourself. Overall Banks, as a first-time director, pieces together a good story, but the montages (tiki party, pillow fight, a rehearsal rubik’s cube of sorts!) are rough.
Where is Beca (Anna Kendrick), you ask? She’s still a Bella, but God forbid she have an additional extra curricular as an intern at a recording studio. Surprisingly, many highlights of the film happen at her new, minimalist-gym-like-styled office thanks to her boss (played flawlessly by Keegan-Michael Key) and Snoop Dogg. You read that correctly. In fact, Pitch Perfect 2 has countless celebrity cameos, and each seems to top the last, thriving in its star-studded awesomeness.
After seeing the first film, in which the 2010 La Roux hit “Bulletproof” was a staple, I assumed artists would be lining up to have his or her song in the sequel. I imagined Nicki Minaj and crew providing Kendrick a tune, radio stations playing it a week or two before the film was released to create a modest hit, and then (bam!) the film would make a semi-popular song the jam of the summer. Instead, the sequel uses an original song as its cornerstone. Prepare to hear a song about flashlights far too many times this year. While it’s cute, it’s nothing catchy or even upbeat. Meanwhile, the medleys are fun, but many songs sang in their entirety are long forgotten melodies. The Treblemakers broke out Mika’s “Lollipop,” which anyone with skinny jeans in 2007 thought was gold but I doubt younger fans will recognize. Pentatonix was singing “Any Way You Want It” for goodness sake. But– soundtrack choices aside, Pitch Perfect 2 made me laugh, maybe harder than the first. And that is an aca-ccomplishment.