In this hilarious continuation to the surprise hit from 2012, Anna Kendrick reprises her role as Beca, orchestrating her collegiate a cappella singing group’s return to competition.
Rejoining Beca on stage is the returning cast of misfits from the first movie, along with politically incorrect competition commentators John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks). “Pitch Perfect 2” marks a stunning directorial debut for Banks (“The Hunger Games” collection), who took on the difficult Hollywood task of making a sequel as good — if not better than — the original film.
“Pitch Perfect 2” delivers a chorus of nonstop laughs throughout the movie using gags, one-liners and expanded storylines on each of the singers. The always amusing Australian stand-up comic Rebel Wilson headlines most of this film’s funniest scenes. As Fat Amy, Wilson provides us with an impeccable, quick-witted physical comedy presence not seen since Leslie Mann’s magnificent, Jim Carrey-esque performance in last year’s “The Other Woman.”
Director Banks wisely brings back the head-spinning, sing-off competition that pits all the a cappella groups against each other in an informal, sudden death elimination match. As some ingenious NFL cameos and hit music from the ’80s are mixed into this soundtrack, the throw-down, sing-off challenge has become the trademark moment of the “Pitch Perfect” series. Never straying too far from solid lyrics and ear-pleasing music, Banks fully understands that audiences not only want laughs but entertainment from this cast of Bellas.
A few changes and fresh faces appear in this chapter of the girls’ lives. As Beca continues her lone-wolf ways, seeking an internship at a record label, her fellow Bellas welcome a new addition. 2011 Critics’ Choice Movie Award winner for “Best Young Actress” Hailee Steinfeld, shows off her singing chops as the group moves on to the international championship. Viewers may recognize Steinfeld from 2010’s remake of “True Grit” or last year’s “Begin Again.”
Through expanded storylines of each of the characters and a high-water mark for laughter that surpasses even the original blockbuster hit, “Pitch Perfect 2” nails it. Viewers who enjoyed the 2012 Barden Bellas will once again find this one music centric and personality driven. First-time director Banks deserves credit for knowing what audiences have enjoyed along the a cappella competition circuit and for masterfully catering to those viewer desires. Her successful debut is marked by charming characters, pleasing music entertainment and perfectly timed humor. How impressive is Banks’ on-screen singing product? Well, “Pitch Perfect 2” opened last weekend alongside “Mad Max: Fury Road” and earned the top spot at the box office with $70 million — nearly double the gross total of George Miller’s sci-fi classic. Add another win in the sing-off competition for the Barden Bellas.