‘Pitch Perfect 2’ holds its own


Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

Directed by Elizabeth Banks

7/10  PG-13

Who runs the box office? Girls. The Bellas are back and topping the weekend box office (racing past “Fury Road“)—but the big question is whether they’re better than they were when we last saw them three years ago. The girls haven’t lost their harmonic touch, but does “Pitch Perfect 2” do enough to set itself apart from the last?

After a disastrously revealing performance at Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas—including Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and Chloe (Brittany Snow)—are told they will not be able to perform again unless they win the world championships, which no American group has ever won. Their main competition, Das Singing Machine (led by Danish actress Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and German DJ Flula Borg), has been lighting up shows big and small on the live tour that should have been the Bellas’. And when Beca gets an internship at a recording studio working under a media mogul (Keegan Michael-Key), the realities of college graduation sets in. The Bellas’ chances look slim. But aca-newbie Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), a legacy (her mom, played by Katey Sagal, was also a Bella), puts a new spark in the group that helps them find their voice and gives them the best odds they’ll ever have.

Anna Kendrick and Hailee Steinfeld in Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

After only a day, the almost universally agreed upon opinion is that “Pitch Perfect 2” fails to live up to its predecessor musically, but does offer more comedically than the first. I don’t know about that. I think there are enough inspired performances (some by the Bellas, some by Das Singing Machine, and some by…the Green Bay Packers?) to make this second effort worth your while. Is it a better, completely revamped version of three years ago? No. But it’s no worse, and you’ll see it anyway so why am I even writing this? Anyway, the humor is sometimes on point (a good deal thanks to Fat Amy), but too often insulting and/or unoriginal (mostly the product of the inappropriate broadcaster played by John Michael Higgins). It’s far from being the comedy of the year.

Despite having the same old story, “Pitch Perfect 2” brings on a new bright spot in Hailee Steinfeld. A real-life friend of Taylor Swift, the “True Grit” Oscar-nominee can sing as well as she can crack jokes. She fits right in. If “Pitch Perfect 3” rolls around in another few years, I expect she’ll be the Bella veteran. In smaller roles, Keegan Michael-Key and Christopher Cross are perfectly utilized. Too often, we see that sort of almost-cameo talent wasted. As Fat Amy, Rebel Wilson shows again that silly can still translate to funny. She’s a hoot. Reprising her role as broadcaster Gail, Elizabeth Banks (also making her feature-length directorial debut) follows right behind costar Higgins with recycled, sad lines that don’t do much to put her in our good graces.

Even with a somewhat sluggish middle (the film clocks in at over two hours), “PP2” easily holds its own with the first. The old Bellas are just as good or better than they were three years ago, but it’s the new blood that makes “Pitch Perfect 2” a solid contender.

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