Pitch Perfect 2 Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow. Directed by Elizabeth Banks. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.
One of the difficulties in creating a sequel to a surprise hit is that the story usually hasn’t been designed to continue, so the filmmakers may have to undo developments that made the first movie satisfying. That’s one of the problems with Pitch Perfect 2, a mildly entertaining sequel to the unexpectedly popular 2012 a cappella comedy.
After turning the Barden Bellas from laughingstocks into champions, writer Kay Cannon has to go back and make the all-female collegiate singing group into underdogs again. So once again they have to lay it all on the line at a big competition (the world championships). Once again main character Beca (Anna Kendrick) is torn between the Bellas and a hipper musical occupation (an internship at a recording studio). Once again there are impromptu a cappella battles, mashups of popular songs and jokes about hefty singer Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson). Once again Kendrick sings “Cups,” putting it in viewers’ heads for weeks.
Everything in Pitch Perfect 2 is a little bigger, but none of it is better. The first movie was appealingly unassuming, but now Cannon and director/co-star Elizabeth Banks (behind the camera for her first feature film) have a whole fanbase to serve, and they throw in celebrity cameos, bland new characters and mediocre subplots, resulting in a movie that’s overstuffed but dramatically thin. The songs are still catchy, the stars are still charming, and some of the jokes are still funny, but the freshness of the original has been replaced by a dutiful retread.