The posters and the credits tell you you’re going to see “Pitch Perfect 2.”
But after two hours of the aca-sequel to the surprise hit of 2012, it’s very clear that you have just seen “Pitch Perfect, Too”– as in the same movie.
Sure there’s a new character here, a modified harmony there, but it’s virtually the same story everywhere.
Horrifyingly gross sequence right at the start from which the ladies will struggle to overcome? Check. Talented, confused girl trying to fit in? Check. Competition from a comically evil bunch of a cappella bullies? Check. A riff-off? Aubrey? Bumper? “Cups?” The girl who never speaks above a whisper? Check, check, check, check, double check.
And yet by the end, you are likely to feel just as you did when you saw the original: entertained and slightly embarrassed that you found yourself cheering for our misfit melodic heroines.
In defense of the brains and the bucks behind this sequel, there was scant motivation to change much in the little movie that could. “Pitch Perfect” was not quite a box office flop but neither was it a mega-hit. It became a cult favorite once it hit premium cable and the DVD racks and millions more watched as Beca, Fat Amy and company learned the joys of sisterhood without benefit of instrumental accompaniment.
Our sequel picks up with the Barden Bellas having conquered the college a cappella world to the point that they find themselves performing for an audience that includes President and Mrs. Obama.
In the original, the ladies become a YouTube-fueled laughingstock when Aubrey vomits all over Lincoln Center. This time it’s Fat Amy – Rebel Wilson returning in the role that made her famous – inadvertently exposing her underwear-free lower half at the Kennedy Center.
This can now become a part of that weird Lincoln-Kennedy coincidences thing that pops up all the time.
The Bellas subsequently get banned from competition, but learn that they can regain aca-glory by beating a German group called Das Sound Machine, which seems to have taken its performance cues from Drago in “Rocky 4” and the David Hasselhoff-led squad from “Dodgeball.” (If you were looking for plot twists in the tradition of “Chinatown” and “North by Northwest,” you clearly have ventured into the wrong theater.)
It does not exactly call for a spoiler alert to tell you that the movie is building to the final showdown between the Bellas and DSM, or to say you can probably guess how it turns out. But there is no denying we come to like these girls and maybe even get a little emotional when they sit around a campfire and sing a certain song. (You’ll see.)
While the first film was packed with unknowns and sort-of knowns, there are more familiar faces in this one, including a host of cameo appearances from television news figures and comic actors. (Keegan Michael Key as a record producer is almost worth the price of admission.)
There is plenty to love about “PP2.” Elizabeth Banks – who is making her feature film debut as a director in this film that her husband Max Handelman produced– and John Michael Higgins reprise their roles as a cappella analysts who say inappropriate things; the new takes on familiar songs are good, as are the mash-ups; and Anna Kendrick is her usual mix of attractively quirky and quirkily attractive.
The lesson of the first film was it’s OK to leave the familiar behind and try something new. The lesson of the sequel is pretty much the same thing.
That would be in the movie version. In reality, the lesson of “PP2” is if it works, keep doing it until someone makes you stop.
Pitch perfect 2
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Running time: 115 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for innuendo and language.
The Lowdown: The Barden Bellas are back together and fighting to regain their stature as best a cappella singing group in the world.