We know Anna Kendrick can sing. And that Rebel Wilson thinks she can.
The “Glee!” phenomenon, with its four-part harmony covers of pop hits, has run its course.
So while the jokes often land and the music is still perfectly in tune, the novelty’s gone from “Pitch Perfect,” the sequel to the surprise hit of 2012. That film that gave Kendrick a brief taste pop stardom and revealed Wilson as a comic with real throw-weight.
But what to do with “Pitch Perfect 2”? More of the same, of course, with the perky Kendrick taking a back to seat to “Fat Amy” and new Barden College “Bella” Emily, played by Hailee “True Grit” Steinfeld. The sequel is a longer movie that feels both overfamiliar and “new but not improved.”
The Bellas have a “wardrobe malfunction” that gets them abruptly drummed out of the acapella organization that sanctions them, snarkily covered by color commentators John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks at events that are “an inspiration for girls, all over the country, who’re too ugly to be cheerleaders.”
Beca (Kendrick) is OK with this, ready to graduate and move on to a job in the music industry, where she already has an internship.
But Chloe (Brittany Snow) and the others aren’t ready to let it go. They want a chance to take on the those Teutonic terrors in tune, Das Sound Machine, at the world championships in Copenghagen.
The Bellas want to “scalp those Deutsche bags!” Maybe they’ll even visit “Hayden Christen Andersen’s House!” Beca would rather help Snoop Dogg with his new Christmas album.
Here’s what works. Birgitte Hjort Sørensen is the imperious, towering goddess who leads the German team.
“I really must go rest my neck,” she sneers. “It is sore from looking DOWN on you!”
She’s so stunning that Beca’s counter-insults have no sting – “Your sweat smells like…cinnamon!”
Wilson’s Fat Amy earns a love interest worthy of a solo – Pat Benatar’s “We Belong to the Night.”
Snoop is hilariously PG, the creepy Asian girl (Hana Mae Lee) still whispers the most unsettling non-sequitors.
“All my teeth are from other people.”
And the songs, from “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to “This Is How We Do It” in contests where the categories include singers who “Dated John Mayer,” still pop.
But Steinfeld is a non-starter. More could have been made from her Bella “legacy” mother, Katey “Sons of Anarchy” Sagal.
This sorority in all but name needs more conflict and more pillow fights, all displayed in a much shorter comedy. Eighty minutes worth of laughs feel lost in a 110-minute movie.
Higgins, of Christopher Guest’s comic repertory company, could have used more screen time for his politically-incorrect commentary about the “Lady Boys of the Philipines,” and “This is what happens when you send girls to college.”
And as tired as acapella versions of song made famous by Journey, Natalie Imbruglia and Katy Perry might be, the novel twist “Let’s do an original” just doesn’t work. Unless you’ve got a surefire hit, which “Perfect 2” feels like, even if the thrill for the trill is gone.
“PITCH PERFECT 2,” starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Hailee Steinfeld. Directed by Elizabeth Banks. Written by Kay Cannon and Mickey Rapkin. A Universal Pictures release. Rated PG-13 for innuendo and language. Running time: 1:55
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