This is an easy sequel to get behind. Pitch Perfect 2 goes hard after the core audience from the first movie with more and bigger. More Beca independence, more superdupercute girl bonding, and much more Fat Amy. It's way too long, at 115 minutes, and overstuffed with too many jokes and songs, but it's hard to hate the energy, the actors, and the sugary ending that feels very right.
As sequels go, Pitch Perfect 2 is by the book. It's the same movie as the first one, but with enough creative differences to keep from being a complete farce. Like in Pitch Perfect, the sequel begins with the now-famous a capella stars, the Barden Bellas, at a performance that goes very wrong. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), suspended above the stage like Pink at the Grammys, splits her spandex and gives the crowd a show they didn't expect. "Muffgate" is born and the Bellas are shamed in the Aca-community.
Meanwhile, Beca (Anna Kendrick) does her own thing again. She's taken an internship with a local record producer (Keegan-Michael Key) and kept it hidden from Chloe (Brittany Snow) and the rest of the Bellas. There's supposed to be real pressure on Beca to devote her life to a capella, but we never really feel it.
The real conflict of the comedy comes in the form of German supergroup Das Sound Machine, a techno-infused challenger to the Bellas led by the "perfect-looking" Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) who embodies every German stereotype. It's like Rocky IV all over again.
The Bellas and Das Sound Machine are destined to compete at the World Acapella Championships, which the U.S. has never won, and the movie gradually gets us there. The detours are cutesy: a downy-innocent frosh, Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), joins the Bellas as a legacy to do her mother (Katey Sagal) proud; Fat Amy carries on an "affair" with Pitch Perfect favorite Bumper (Adam DeVine); and the Bellas party together in slow-motion without ever crossing into R-rated territory.
Pitch Perfect 2 also marks the feature directorial debut of Elizabeth Banks (who reprises her role as Gail as well). The actress captures the first film's tone and she's a great fit overall, but she does allow the movie to go way too long, with an unnecessary "bonding" camp-out, but at least it brings Aubrey (Anna Camp) back. The script, by Kay Cannon, offers no surprises and that's the point. Jokes are shot out rapid fire en masse and not all of them hit their target, but anyone who loved the first movie won't get enough.
Wilson provides much of the funny as Fat Amy and she may have the most screen time in the film. Her fearlessness is Farley-esque at times, but she's also great at dropping one-liners — her timing sets up the biggest laughs. Her relationship with Bumper is a joke, but a good one and a clever way to keep the funny people onscreen. Pitch Perfect 2's biggest flaw is thinking all these girls can be comedians, some lines are groan-inducing (and not just for the writing), but there's much more to like than hate and the jokiness keeps things light-hearted.
Banks obviously has the comedic spirit right and Pitch Perfect 2 works, as the original did, by never taking itself too seriously. It's Christopher Guest-lite. The sarcasm is relentless and many jokes from the first movie — Lilly's insane whispering, Cynthia's libido — are recycled as per the bylaws of studio sequels. The movie also provides the requisite number of side-splitting cameos from the likes of Key, David Cross, Reggie Watts, Snoop Dogg, and the Green Bay Packers. The fun in this movie never ends, which is, of course, exactly what it's like to be a Barden Bella.