(Again, best sung to “Cups”)

When competition leads to victory,
One slip can worsen failure’s sting.
To erase disgrace and reclaim the first place,
Out of many, your harmony must sing.

Sing along, sing along,
Perhaps a right can fix a wrong.
You’re gonna meet the future soon
And you will meet it still in tune,
If you sing now and then all your life long.

MPAA rating: PG-13

Rarely has there been a sequel I so clearly enjoyed more than the original. Despite the fact that both Pitch Perfects were written by Kay Cannon, the screenwriter manages to overcome one of my main complaints about the first film –the lack of humor—with some greatly improved comedy.

The plot is essentially the same: a performance fiasco ruins the reputation of the Barden Bellas, which leads to training, a rivalry, tempers flaring, bonding, and a big musical face-off for which no one could possibly guess the outcome. Likewise, the characters haven’t changed much: Brittany Snow’s Chloe is now the obsessive Bella leader in place of Aubrey (who’s graduated but still gets some screen time), Hana Mae Lee’s Lilly still spouts bizarre non sequiturs, Ester Dean’s Cynthia-Rose still acts tough and gay, and Rebel Wilson’s “Fat Amy” is still her crude but fearless self. Yet when the stories and characters are so similar, the comedic differences shine all the brighter. I laughed more in the first twenty minutes of Pitch Perfect 2 than during the whole of the first film. Perhaps the characters simply grew on me with exposure, but they were all far more likable this time around. Some new characters were also welcome, such as Hailee Steinfeld as the amateur songwriter Emily and Chrissie Fit as a Latina constantly contrasting Chloe’s panicking with her own extreme Third World experiences. Again, the two a cappella commentators, played by Elizabeth Banks (who also directed this sequel) and John Michael Higgins, remain the most hilarious piece of the ensemble, especially when they throw political correctness out the window.

The one place that Pitch Perfect 2 may fall a bit short of the first is the music; the a cappella song-sampling is still full of catchy mixed beats from every era, but I was less familiar with the soundtrack as a whole (though I loved that the very first song was “Timber”). Even so, the sequel does try to outdo its predecessor, making the Bellas’ rivals a massive German collective who understand spectacle and turning the first film’s Riff-Off into a higher-stakes competition, even featuring the Green Bay Packers for some reason. Even if the main plot was identical, I did like the direction the subplots took. Aside from Fat Amy being paired with the man who threw a burrito at her in the first film, Beca had to realize that her experience with a cappella and mash-ups did not a music career make. Often hobbies we enjoy or even find success at don’t always translate into a practical vocation, and how Beca responded to that inconvenient truth felt like a real and worthwhile lesson for an otherwise silly movie.

Pitch Perfect 2 still isn’t quite the kind of film I gravitate toward, but it’s one I’d gladly see again. I wasn’t expecting much after the first film, but my low expectations allowed me to enjoy its sequel far more than I anticipated. With a third film on the way next year, I’m more optimistic for it now, and I hope they can conclude this trilogy in pitch perfect fashion.

Best line: (John, the commentator, during a Bellas performance) “An overweight girl dangling from the ceiling. Who hasn’t had that dream?”
(Gail) “Lots of us!”

Rank: List Runner-Up

© S.G. Liput 2016
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