Movie review: 'Pitch Perfect 2'

The Bellas of “Pitch Perfect” hit the right note in a likable sequel that doesn't produce glory, but it definitely supplies glee.

Updated 5/14/2015

There are comedies where the characters feel like a refracted version of us, and others where they feel like fictional creations. “Pitch Perfect” created a make-believe a cappella singing world where competitions are televised like Super Bowls and filled it with a gawky eight-member team of pretend college girls who never attend class.

Meet Fat Amy, she’s thick around the middle! Say hello to Lilly, a nerdy Asian named after a regional flower! Welcome to One Note College! The formula didn’t move the musical comedy oeuvre to new heights, but with elaborate performance showcases and a smidge of sisterhood empowerment it became a 2012 surprise hit.

The follow-up doesn’t produce glory, but it definitely supplies glee. Once again it’s the story of a group whose members must improve a stale repertoire if they hope to win a competition. Which is essentially what sequels like this have to do.

Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and the rest of the gang are on top of the world as the sequel opens. National champions for three years, the Bellas are invited to entertain the First Family at Kennedy Center. Cut to stock shot of the smiling Obamas seated in a theater. It’s a smash until trapeze-riding Amy (Wilson) undergoes a major midair wardrobe malfunction. Cut to frowning Obamas.

Barred from further performances, the only way the troupe can return to the stage is by winning the upcoming global contest, where no American team has ever triumphed. That means they must top the Panzer-like German vocal group Das Sound Machine (headed by Deutsch media star Flula Borg, playing his part like a campy Dolph Lundgren in “Rocky IV”).

There’s a symphony of similar one-note humor here. Anyone not born in the U.S.A. (or black, or lesbian) is a target for sarcasm. Much of it is delivered spot-on by John Michael Higgins, playing the competitions’ acid-tongued TV commentator, and twisted for sharp retorts from co-host Elizabeth Banks, who keeps the laughs speeding along in her directing debut.

Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”), playing a likable newcomer to the group, makes a wide-eyed and wonderfully voiced addition. Wilson’s character, lured into out-and-out romance, carries the day beyond Kendrick’s, who pursues a recording studio internship that she keeps hidden from the other Bellas.

There’s a roster of giggly surprise appearances by music, sports and TV celebrities playing themselves. Better are the ace character roles from comics Keegan-Michael Key as Kendrick’s boorish boss and David Cross as a batty fan.

In the tradition of Marvel Universe sequels, there’s an end-credit sequence worth hanging around for. It sounds as if we haven’t heard the final crescendo just yet.

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