Starring: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson
Directed by: Elizabeth Banks (debut)
Written by: Kay Cannon (“Pitch Perfect”)
When “Pitch Perfect” came out in 2012, it was a bonafide sleeper hit. Taking advantage of a recent revival in interest in acapella music and piggybacking off of the female-led smash hit that was “Bridesmaids,” “Pitch Perfect” was able to take a sharp script from “30 Rock” writer Kay Cannon and turn it into a surprise box office smash that went so far as to lead its most notable performance of the song “Cups” by its lead actress Anna Kendrick to a top 10 Billboard hit. Looking to recapture the success of the original, and with a new layer of expectation, actress Elizabeth Banks steps into the director’s chair with “Pitch Perfect 2.”
After an embarrassing performance in front of the President of the United States at the Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas find themselves banned from performing. In order to regain their status, The Bellas led by captain Becca (Anna Kendrick) must enter, and win, an international contest which no American team has ever won.
Taking cues from many contemporary comedies, Cannon and Banks take the rapid-fire, volume joke approach for the films humor, which works to a surprising degree. The humor is non-stop and if one joke doesn’t land, there’s another one closely following that does. It’s an impressive feat, though not entire unsurprising given Cannon’s past in quick-witted “30 Rock” and the host of capable comedic actors at her disposal. In fact, the secondary cast may be the unsung hero of “Pitch Perfect 2.” When a laugh is needed, director Banks has incredibly gifted comedic actors like Keegan-Michael Key and John Michael Higgins to deliver a perfectly placed punchline. On the same note, “Pitch Perfect 2” is also more of an ensemble piece than the first installment, which was largely focused on Kendrick’s character Becca. There’s no question that Rebel Wilson’s character “Fat Amy” was the breakout character of the first film, and that has not changed. In fact, if anything, Wilson’s impact has only grown as she absolutely owns every scene she is in, garnering laughs at an impressive clip.
One of the more impressive elements of “Pitch Perfect 2” is its ability to mine humor and entertainment out of retreaded ground. It is expected that many plot elements or even jokes that were successful in an original installment will resurface in a sequel, but the way they are written and executed allow Cannon and Banks to continue to find gold. A great example of this is an underground acapella battle that happens midway through the film. Fans of the original will remember a variation of this scene where teams must instantly match the beat of the previous teams song with another song from the same designated category. Upping the stakes with a comically absurd grand prize and adding several completely hilarious and perfectly casted cameos and it is instantly a fresh take on a scene that has proven to work.
There are some story issues, and the films narrative can be a little overstuffed and quickly paced at times, but none of that gets in the way of the pure, unadulterated blast that “Pitch Perfect 2” provides. Though the musical parts of the film are again impressively done, it ultimately takes a backseat to the comedy, which works far more often than it doesn’t. It’s occasionally crass, offensive and a bit mean spirited, but almost always extremely funny and entertaining. In an age where sequels are regularly a disappointment, “Pitch Perfect 2” is, at the very least, equal to and quite possibly better than the original, and is the first legitimately great film of the summer movie season (Sorry, Avengers).