No one really expected a low-budget musical comedy about college singing groups to become one of 2012’s biggest box office success stories. But Hollywood’s response to a hit like that is much easier to predict: a sequel with more characters, more chaos, more meta pop culture riffs, and more medleys (so many medleys!) than you can aca-shake a stick at.
Pitch Perfect 2 comes out swinging, literally, with a graphic onstage mishap involving Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy, an aerial sling, and a very scandalized POTUS. (Suffice it to say, the press dubs it Muffgate.) Disgraced and barred from competing in nationals, our harmonizing heroines the Barden Bellas find a loophole that allows them to enter the upcoming world competition in Copenhagen instead. But lo, there be obstacles. Among them, the Teutonic menace known as Das Sound Machine—a troupe of towering Germans who sing like angels and dress like sex-club Sprockets—and the divided attention of de facto Bellas leader Beca (Anna Kendrick), who is secretly interning for a high-strung music producer (Key & Peele’s excellently mean Keegan-Michael Key).
PP2 sometimes feels less like a movie than a two-hour episode of Glee ghostwritten by Amy Schumer; jokes fly like they’re being shot from T-shirt guns at a gonzo pep rally, and not all of them stick the landing. But the story also gives big, joyful voice to groups whose members have spent their whole lives being targeted because of who they are, be it black, gay, overweight, female, or just deeply uncool. Now—to quote Beyoncé, a patron saint of Pitchery—they run this mother. B+