When Pitch Perfect opened in limited nationwide release to the tune of a $5 million box-office take in 2012, that could have very easily been the end of the story for a modestly budgeted feel-good flick with familiar but not quite box-office draw kind of names.
Word of mouth spread and before long, Pitch Perfect had snagged just over $65 million at the U.S. box-office and just shy of $50 million globally. For a film with a $17 million production budget, that's a pretty stellar success. The film grew even more popular once it arrived on home video and, as if to drive that point home, the promo screening was absolutely packed with a bunch of "pitches" and even a few sons of "pitches."
They left happy.
Pitch Perfect 2 loses the element of surprise this time around, but what it lacks in surprise it makes up for with a lot more laughs and crisply shot musical sequences that light up the screen under the direction of Elizabeth Banks. The film kicks off with fan favorite Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) coming in like a wrecking ball as the three-time national champion Barden Bellas performing for President Obama's birthday bash when a rather unnatural disaster, soon to be known as Muffgate, wrecks their reputation and leads to their being banned from domestic competition by the terrible twosome of Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins). With their reputation in tatters and their competitive options stripped away, the Bellas set their eyes on the A Capella World Championships in Denmark, a competition that no American has ever won. To do so, they'll have to get by the likes of Das Sound Machine, a techno and leather-clad group from Germany led by Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Borgen) and Youtube star Flula Borg as the hilariously unfunny Pieter.
While it would seem that you could only get so much mileage out of a staunchly German a capella group, Pitch Perfect 2 really works it overtime to great effect. In one of the film's better scenes, Arrested Development's David Cross organizes an underground sing-off that is perfectly choreographed and joyfully demented. The scene is so inspired that you can't help but wish that Cross would hang around even longer.
If you enjoyed Pitch Perfect, then you will most definitely enjoy Pitch Perfect 2. While it's not a carbon copy of its predecessor, it doesn't really mess with the formula but simply has a lot more fun with it. While the film focuses much of its attention on the occasionally bawdy humor, the inventive musical sequences and the ever present witty one-liners, especially from Rebel Wilson's Fat Amy, Pitch Perfect 2 weaves in some pretty nifty story lines including the ongoing not quite romance between Fat Amy and Bumper (Adam Devine), the far less present romance between Becca (Anna Kendrick) and Jesse (Skyler Astin), and the introduction of newbie Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), a legacy with a rather heartfelt story. The film also has Becca wrestling with life after the Bellas as she interns for a record label led by a hilariously narcissistic CEO underplayed to perfection by Keegan-Michael Key.
The cast is uniformly strong with Rebel Wilson's Fat Amy still pretty much stealing every scene she's in. Anna Kendrick once again impresses vocally and with the depth of her performance, while Hailee Steinfeld may prove to be the biggest surprise as she finally lives up to that True Grit promise.
Pitch Perfect 2 isn't life-changing cinema, though if you watch it closely you'll see a good amount of female empowerment and sisterhood going on underneath the bawdy humor and seemingly flippant one-liners. Director Banks and screenwriter Kay Cannon manage to infuse the film with both heart and humor, and while the humor does occasionally fall incredibly flat it's also occasionally so unpredictably inventive that you can't help but have a blast with the film if you're willing to surrender yourself to it.
Pitch Perfect 2 opens in theaters nationwide on May 15th, 2015.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic