The Barden Bellas are back on the stage in Pitch Perfect 2, the sequel to 2012’s surprise hit about a collegiate a cappella group. Three years have passed since the events of Pitch Perfect, and the Bellas have continued their reign as National Champions. But when an unfortunate incident occurs during a performance for the President of the United States, the girls find themselves banned from competition.
Luckily, there’s a loophole: if the Bellas can win the World Championships of A Cappella – something no American team has ever accomplished – they’ll be reinstated. But with Beca (Anna Kendrick) preoccupied with an internship that will prepare her for life after college, the rest of the girls struggle to find their footing, even with the help of a new arrival (Hailee Steinfeld) whose mother (Katey Sagal) was an original Bella.
Even more daunting is the ascension of Das Sound Machine, a German group with nearly three times as many signers and a special effects-laden stage show featuring lasers, pyrotechnics, and intricate choreography. They’re the toughest competitors the Bellas have ever encountered, and a preliminary face-off during a party for an eccentric millionaire (David Cross) leaves the girls feeling over-matched. To have a shot at redemption, the Bellas need to rediscover what made them great in the first place, and a weekend retreat hosted by an old friend might be just the ticket.
First-time director Elizabeth Banks (who reprises her role as ICCA commentator Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberg) has delivered an exceptionally well-made debut. The song arrangements are fresh and exciting, the jokes are clever and frequent, and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and Bumper (Adam Devine) continue to steal every scene they’re in. There are a few stumbles, including some pacing issues in the second half and a bizarre cameo from a rap star that feels absurdly out of place, but those are pretty minor grievances in the grand scheme of things.
Pitch Perfect 2 subscribes to the same tried-and-true formula that has been applied to sports-related sequels for decades: after winning the national title, the only thing left is a world championship. As audience members that have seen this scenario plenty of times, we know exactly where this film is headed from the opening credits, but that’s okay – it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination, and the film delivers everything fans of Pitch Perfect could ask for in a follow-up.