The Barden Bellas are back – but this sequel doesn’t quite pitch as perfectly as the original.
Fortunately it isn’t too far behind the much-loved first effort, as a witty script and toe-tapping numbers still takes this well above formulaic fare.
After a $69m opening in the States – which is more in three days than the first film took in its entire run – the Pitch Perfect franchise has obviously accumulated a massive fan base, and with its amiable cast returning, this has more than enough enjoyable factors to tick enough family-entertainment boxes. With the collegiate a cappella crew – including Beca (Anna Kendrick), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Stacie (Alexis Knapp) and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) – on a roll after snagging national championships, their world comes crashing down when a wardrobe malfunction leaves them humiliated in front of President Barack Obama. They are then taken swiftly off the US Aca-circuit, but a loophole as reigning champions allows them to enter the international competition in Copenhagen – but with much stiffer opposition that makes it an almost insurmountable task. The main obstacle standing in their way comes in the form of 20-strong German super group Das Sound Machine. They are as menacing as they are heavily-stereotyped – led by the egotistical and super-dedicated Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) and Pieter (Flula Borg).
Along the way ‘fresher’ Emily (True Grit’s Oscar-nominated Hailee Steinfeld), daughter of famous ex-Bella Katherine Junk (Futurama’s Katey Sagal), joins the ride, and the boys from the original – Jesse (Skylar Astin), Bumper (Adam Devine) and Benji (Ben Platt) – are shoe-horned into the plot with their romantic sub-stories, that clearly play second fiddle to the tournament main course.
Sadly though – despite Kendrick flourishing and Wilson providing more hits than misses in the comedy department – it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the original. It’s not quite as funny, tightly-edited, cleverly-scripted or serves the same amount of ‘spine-tingling’ musical moments. Don’t get me wrong it does have some, just not as many.
There’s no impromptu Bruno Mars ‘Just The Way You Are’, Anna Kendrick’s memorable first audition or Simple Minds’ ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ finale that quite puts that same smile on your face like the 2012 film did – even though the girls’ ending song this time round does come pretty close.
But fortunately the addition of Keegan-Michael Key, who shines as Beca’s producer boss when she starts an internship, and the return of Aca-commentators John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks from the Hunger Games, who also does a noteworthy job by directing this too), add enough stand-out snippets of hilarity to make the sequel watchable in its own right – particularly when some of the ‘immigrant’ jokes from Guatemalan Bella band member Flo (Chrissie Fit) fall embarrassingly on their backside.
So despite not quite being as poignant – or Aca-amazing – as the original, this still hits more than enough high notes to give it plenty of X-Factor.