Aca-sequel Pitch Perfect 2 opens on the Barden Bellas, now internationally famous three-time a cappella champs, about to get infamous with a Miley Cyrus-inspired stunt gone wrong.
Performing at the Kennedy Center for President Obama’s birthday, the singers stage an elaborate rendition of “Wrecking Ball” that sends resident Aussie Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) hundreds of feet in the air in Cirque du Soleil-esque silks—where she inadvertently splits her spandex and bares her Little Amy for the Leader of the Free World to see.
The First Couple makes a surprise cameo thanks to an inspired use of archival footage well used by director Elizabeth Banks, making her helming debut. And the ensuing next-day media frenzy over Fat Amy’s wardrobe malfunction unfolds in staged bits with everyone from CNN’s Jake Tapper to the ladies of The View, but none of these staged reactions can top the comedic perfection of Obama’s real-life frowny disgust.
Behold, the power of a bared vagina: Fat Amy’s Janet Jackson moment resets the Bellas as the underdogs again as they find themselves on America’s moral shit list. They even receive a demented death threat in the mail from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. To redeem themselves, they must win an international singing competition against a world-dominating team of Teutonic “Deutschbags” who have hot ’90s jams like Kris Kross’s “Jump” in their arsenal—the mark of any true karaoke killer.
But the group, now an aca-sorority led by graduating seniors Beca (Anna Kendrick) and Chloe (Brittany Snow), is already falling apart at the seams. Beca’s distracted by an internship at a record company where she learns that being a mash-up DJ does not a legit artist make. Meanwhile, too much success in the collegiate a cappella game has stifled the Bellas’ creativity, leading to desperately showy stunts that aren’t true to who they are.
Unfortunately, the same is true of Pitch Perfect 2.
Dominated by easier jokes than the smart ones that made Pitch Perfect a charming $113 million sleeper hit—get ready to be pitch-slapped with a lot of casual racism that doesn’t land—the sequel grasps to find a compelling story for its returning cast of fan-favorite characters.
Instead, it hits all the same tired notes: Beca’s dubious commitment to the Bellas; campus romances; training montages; an impromptu mash-up sing-off that sets the stage for the last-act showdown against an intimidating rival team.
At least the big bad Germans liven up the film whenever they march into frame, led by Game of Thrones’ Birgitte Hjort Sørensen and YouTube personality Flula Borg, whose snarling leather-clad Das Sound Machine squad embodies a sassy spirit the film is sorely lacking: Bitch Perfect.