• Barden Bellas face more insanity in ‘Pitch Perfect 2’
• Lack of story limits what director Elizabeth Banks can do
• Higgins, Banks create biggest laughs as broadcast pair
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The Barden Bellas have found their harmony again to make “Pitch Perfect 2” nearly as much fun as the original. The tale of an all-female college a cappella group who finds national success is mindless entertainment that taps your funny bone while making your toes tap. It’s just a little more focused on your toes this time around.
The plot is more of a ditty than a full symphony. After embarrassing themselves in front of the President, the Bellas are banned from further collegiate competition. They can win back their good name by capturing the international a cappella championship being held just after graduation.
Standing in their way is a German team who sings and dances with the precision of a well-tuned Mercedes. They also have to face a Canadian team portrayed by the real a cappella group Pentatonix that includes Visalia native Avi Kaplan.
The Bellas — joined by one new member, Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) — must find a way to regroup or all of their accomplishments will be as musically meaningful as Milli Vanilli.
Creating the only sour note in this sequel to the 2012 surprise hit is that this time around the characters are already established. That leaves director Elizabeth Banks with little to do except create one music video-type scene after another. That results in a slightly choppy performance.
Banks does the best with the script by Kay Cannon. The biggest — and best — moments come during the international competition. Because that doesn’t come until late in the movie, the rest of the film is little more than finding a way to keep the comedy beat.
A secondary story about head Bella Beca (Anna Kendrick) starting an internship at a recording studio generally skips a beat. Kendrick is at her best when she’s dealing with the insanity that is the Bellas and taking her out of that world eliminates sweet comedy passages. Even the relationship Beca forged with Jesse (Skylar Astin) in the first film is treated like an annoyance.
Kendrick is extremely talented and the heart of both films. Keeping her closer to the group would have been a better approach.
Banks does a great job in reining in Rebel Wilson. The Aussie comedian can quickly get too over the top. Banks lets her have some freedoms, but she never gives her enough to disrupt the flow of story.
As they did in the first movie, Banks and John Michael Higgins are hilarious as the a cappella broadcast team. The blend of improper things said by Higgins and the dry sense of humor of Banks make this pair worthy of their own movie.
The musical numbers are generally good — but not quite as solid as in the first film, including the grand finale by the Bellas. It’s like seeing a favorite band perform and when it gets time for an encore, the selection isn’t a big hit.
“Pitch Perfect 2” is like a long drum solo. It starts out exciting but tends to have a lull in the middle that should have been cut to get to the finale quicker. “Pitch Perfect 2” would have benefited from losing about 15 minutes — the amount of time spent with Beca’s new career.
Otherwise, “Pitch Perfect 2” is a sound machine of song and silliness.