Of all the summer blockbusters I saw this summer, Pitch Perfect 2, made for a fraction of the cost of some of the other huge films, was my favorite. There were no explosions or punches thrown, no time traveling robots or Tom Cruise hanging from an airplane. Instead, Pitch Perfect 2 was a success because of consistent, funny writing, performances by a cast that stayed true to their characters, and plenty of fun music. Most important, it retained the heart of the first Pitch Perfect from 2012. Unlike so many sequels, this one actually entertained me more than the first and builds on the original’s success.
Picking up four years after Pitch Perfect ended, the Barden University a cappella group, the Bellas, are at the peak of their success. They are National a cappella champions and have the honor of performing for President Obama on his birthday. Near the end of a song, Rebel Wilson’s character, Fat Amy, descends from the rafters on a silk swing, contorting her body like a Cirque du Soleil circus artist. But Fat Amy loses control and her tight spandex pants rip down the crotch, revealing that she’s gone commando for the President.
The Bellas are disgraced and stripped of their national title crown. Moreover, they aren’t allowed to recruit any incoming freshman and can’t compete in the next National Championships. Of course, the girls are mortified. Brittany Snow’s Chloe has flunked Spanish seven times just so she can remain in school and carry on the Bella tradition. Meanwhile, Anna Kendrick’s Beca, Fat Amy and most of the returning characters from the first film are on the verge of graduation and devastated that they can no longer sing together.
However, the ladies find a loophole when they realize that they can still compete in the World a cappella tournament in Copenhagen. Before they can even get on the plane for Europe, the Bellas have to rediscover their harmony and regain their confidence. It won’t be easy (it never is) because their main competition is a German super a cappella group called Das Sound Machine led by confident Kommisar (Danish actress Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) and her co-leader Pieter (played by Youtube sensation Flula Borg). The run-ins between the Bellas and Das Sound Machine are some of the best moments of the movie, with the tall, blond Kommisar flummoxing Beca.
Another loophole they find is that they can admit a legacy into their ranks. This allows newcomer Hailee Steinfeld to come on board as the awkward and talented Emily. Steinfeld slips right in with the rest of the cast, proving to be very deft at the comedy and singing. A Pitch Perfect 3 is already in the works. Should Steinfeld become the new lead, the series is in able hands.
Rounding out the movie is a subplot about Beca interning for a famous record producer. Besides providing a glimpse of what Beca might do after college (and a cameo from Snoop Dogg), it allows Keegan-Michael Key (as the producer) to steal just about every scene he’s in.
Highlights of the film include a secret a cappella competition (the Riff-Off) held at the home of a millionaire played by David Cross. He’s assembled some of the best a cappella groups around, including a group whose singers are Reggie Watt, Jason Jones, Adam Devine, John Hodgeman and Jo Lo Truglio, and a group consisting of members of the Green Bay Packers. Who knew Clay Matthews, III was a natural comedian? Elsewhere, a sequence that finds the Bellas on a group bonding retreat offers a chance for Anna Camp’s character, Aubrey, to return. A scenario with a net trap provides plenty of laughs.
The whole cast shines. Even though Skylar Astin, Ben Blatt and Adam Devine have much smaller roles in this movie, their appearances still give Pitch Perfect 2 the right amount of romance to appease fans of the first film. Additionally, John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks return as a cappella commentators, with Higgins delivering plenty of racy and degrading lines that make his character look like an ass. He kills it.
Speaking of Elizabeth Banks, the gifted actress steps into the director role for this movie and does a bang up job. She handles the actors with ease, and shows an inventive visual flare. If she ever decides to take time off from acting, she definitely has a future in directing. Anyone concerned that the sequel might miss a beat because the first film’s director, Jason Moore, was off helming the upcoming Amy Poehler/Tina Fey comedy need not worry.
The Pitch Perfect 2 Blu-ray is generous with bonus features. Among them are: The Making of the Riff- Off , Das Sound Machine Finale Breakdown, Snoop in the House , Green Bay Rap, The World Championships of A Cappella, An Aca-Love Story: A Look at Bumper and Fat Amy, Aca-Camp, Residual Heat Internship. Also included are the standards such as Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes, a gag reel and extended musical performance.
For a chance to win a copy of Pitch Perfect 2 on Blu-ray, follow this link.