By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Pitch Perfect may not have had perfect pitch, cinematically speaking. But it was close, a real charmer that became a sleeper hit.
The follow-up, Pitch Perfect 2, is another enjoyable musical comedy that hits almost all the right notes -– fewer than the 2012 original did, but enough to entertain fans of that film with another heaping helping despite a certain measure of sequelitis setting in.
After all, Pitch Perfect had originality going for it: it was something we hadn't seen before. Pitch Perfect 2 is close to the proverbial carbon copy.
It's three years later at Barden University and the Barden Bellas, an all-female singing group, have broken through in the world of college a cappella competitions and become famous by winning the national competition three years in a row.
In this excursion, the academic misfits square off against a German a cappella group -- the international champions -- called Das Sound Machine, after the Bellas were being banned from competing in the United States following an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction on live television that befalls Fat Amy, played once again by Rebel Wilson. (It occurs during a command performance at Lincoln Center with President and Michelle Obama in attendance.)
As graduation approaches for these seniors and insecurity creeps in as they contemplate what the heck they're going to do with the rest of their lives, the Bellas attempt to redeem themselves overseas by going to Copenhagen and winning the world a cappella championship, something no American singing group has ever accomplished.
Anna Kendrick returns in the lead as Beca, now the team captain who, because she aspires to become a music producer and seeks a life after college, is secretly interning at a record label (whose boss is played by Keegan-Michael Key) in a seemingly tangential subplot that generates quite a few laughs.
Brittany Snow also returns as former Bellas leader Chloe, while Hailee Steinfeld (who, it would appear, is being groomed to take over the lead once the Bellas graduate and if there is to be at least one more sequel) comes aboard as a freshman member of the group whose mother, played by Katey Sagal, used to be a Bella herself.
Screenwriter Kay Cannon, who also wrote the original screenplay, again loosely bases her script on the nonfiction book by Mickey Rapkin, Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory.
And, once again, despite narrative silliness that shouldn't pass muster, endearing characters and sharp dialogue combine to put a smile on your face and keep it there pretty much throughout, while also providing a handful of laugh-out-loud moments.
Oh, subplots are introduced and then abandoned as if the film's makers wished they hadn't been addressed in the first place.
But there's enough goodwill generated; spirited, upbeat a cappella numbers delivered; and wisecracks slung to cover the cracks in the screenplay.
Elizabeth Banks, who served as a producer on both films, again appears as a wry and cutting commentator alongside John Michael Higgins during the competitions. The two of them are responsible for the most reliable collection of one-liners -– and she also makes her directorial debut on this sequel.
While minimizing the contributions of just about all the male characters old and new so she can explore the theme of female empowerment without being preachy about it, Banks also manages to juggle slapstick bits with all-vocal musical interludes in what seems a freshly observed way, rendering the film simultaneously upbeat and offbeat. That's an impressive audience-friendly accomplishment.
At close to two hours, Pitch Perfect 2 is, for a comedy, of above-average length. But the audience's patience does not get tested because of relatively snappy pacing.
So, yes, Pitch Perfect 2 is well shy of perfection. Call it 2½ stars out of 4.
But for the first film's many fans, will the second salvo live up to the standards of its popular predecessor? Close enough to send them home happy. Again.
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