Back in 2013, Pitch Perfect became a surprise hit when it grossed $115.4 million worldwide and made an instant impact on pop culture. From a top-selling soundtrack to a top 10 song on the Billboard Hot 100, I don’t think anyone really saw the film coming. I doubt a sequel was planned but when you gross that much money on a $17 million budget, the studio will make it happen.
Pitch Perfect 2 was released in the summer of 2015 and opened to $69.2 million. That means its opening weekend surpassed the first film’s total domestic gross in 3 days (Pitch Perfect tapped out at $65 million) and it went on to gross $287 million worldwide ($184.2 million of that coming from domestic grosses). The final box office tally made it the highest grossing music comedy of all time (surpassing the worldwide gross of $131.3 million for School of Rock) and made the third installment (out tomorrow) a no-brainer.
Pitch Perfect 2 entertains for the same reasons its predecessor did. It’s fun, the music is great and the cast chemistry is top notch. Like most sequels, everything feels bigger. The music numbers are elaborate and everything feels a bit more cinematic. The sequel, for me, is no better or worse than the first film. They’re on equal footing for all the same reasons and while some may think they’re rehashing what worked before, I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Now that the Barden Bellas have conquered America, how about the world? After being banned from performing Stateside due to a “wardrobe malfunction” in front of President Obama at Lincoln Center, they seek to repair their reputation by representing their country overseas in the Olympics of Acappella. There they face their nemesis, a German team called Das Sound Machine with a dominatrix lead singer (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) and back-ups who get their fair share of laughs.
The sequel gives every character a subplot to pursue. Beca, gazing into the mists of her life beyond the Bellas, seeks to pursue music production by accepting a secret internship. Of course, this leads to success – but only after initial frustration. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) finds love in an unexpected place. Chloe (Brittany Snow) frets over what will happen to her after graduation. Aubrey (Anna Camp), the projectile vomiting champ from the first film, returns like Apollo Creed to train the Bellas for their upcoming competition. The new blood is provided by Hailee Steinfeld as Emily, the daughter of a former Bella whose disastrous beginning with the group paves the way for her to make a big contribution at the end.
Cliches abound in Pitch Perfect 2 but you let them pass because everyone is having so much fun. The more cinematic nature of the production is evident during its opening musical number. The performance of “Wrecking Ball” at The Lincoln Center is certainly memorable and ends on a pretty funny note courtesy of Rebel Wilson. The riff-off, which was a highlight of the first film, is amped up here with an underground battle that makes it even better than the one from its predecessor. Once again, when I saw this on opening day in a packed theater, it became a full-on crowd participation event. The final number, which redeems the Bellas, consist of catchy familiar tunes and an original number called “Flashlight” that actually makes an impact during the finale. Even if the story of Pitch Perfect 2 falls on sport and competition cliches, the music is the selling point and that’s where it truly shines.
All of the returning performers are top notch. They feel like a close group and their chemistry remains just as potent as ever. Anna Kendrick is still just as likable as can be, Rebel Wilson still gets most of the funny moments and steals her scenes, and the other Bellas are there to round out solid character moments that have become a signature of the franchise. The most significant newcomer to cast is Hailee Steinfeld, who has taken a lesson from Kendrick in likability. She’s a welcomed addition and she even parlayed her role here into a pop career that has spawned a top 12 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 called “Starving” in 2016. The guys don’t get as much play in this sequel as its mostly the girls show so the likes of Skylar Austin and Ben Platt are sidelined a bit but they’re still fun. The one male character from the first film to get more exposure this time around is Adam Devine, who shares an offbeat chemistry with Rebel Wilson that’s good for a few laughs. Lastly, Elizabeth Banks, who steps in the director’s chair for this film, and John Michael Higgins still get all the laughs as Gail and John. Their play-by-play commentary is probably funnier this time around and their chemistry is off the charts.
No one really saw Pitch Perfect coming as a franchise but Pitch Perfect 2 makes a strong case for its existence. I won’t deny that this made more as a cash grab rather than it being planned from the start but no matter its intentions, it’s still a fun film and a worthy follow up to its predecessor.