There’s nothing like a cappella, especially when accompanied by musical instruments. That’s the case in “Pitch Perfect 2,” and although that makes the a cappella not exactly authentic, the movie compensates with a fullness of sound as well as spirit, plus an off-kilter sense of humor that keeps the laughs coming. As of today, this is the most delightful movie out there.
A sequel to the surprise 2012 smash, about a college group of singers that wins a national championship, the new film shows the group’s ambitions widen to include the whole world, but with some very funny setbacks along the way. The movie’s only weakness, a small one but it has to be mentioned, is a slight sag about two-thirds in, when the women go away to camp. For about seven or eight minutes, this otherwise energetic movie stands still, but sitting through a tiny dead spot is a small price to pay.
“Pitch Perfect 2” gets off to a flashy start, with the ladies performing in Washington, D.C., before an audience of bigwigs that includes the president and first lady. As the first couple watch from the balcony, Fat Amy (shrewd Australian comedian Rebel Wilson) has an epic wardrobe malfunction. This is captured on live television, and the group finds itself disgraced, with only one path to redemption left — winning the international championship in Copenhagen.
This sequel was directed by Elizabeth Banks, who in recent years has shaded her screen personality into something distinct — zany but contained, eccentric but not oblivious, someone funny, unconventional and aware. “Pitch Perfect 2” is a little like that, like what Banks has been bringing to the screen lately, only this time she is coming at you from all sides. Banks herself appears again as the snippy, diva-ish co-host of an a cappella podcast.
In “Pitch Perfect 2,” the women are seniors, experiencing anxiety about leaving the college nest, as well as nostalgia in advance for all they’re leaving behind. Actually, that’s the one scene in the camp sequence worth salvaging, the one in which the women sit in a circle and start missing each other, even though they’re all still there.
Already, these women are starting to go in different directions. Beca (Anna Kendrick), the leader of the group, is moonlighting as an intern at a recording studio. The group has admitted an up-and-comer into their ranks, a freshman named Emily (Hailee Steinfeld). Come to think of it, the audition scene in which Emily is admitted is a bit odd. She doesn’t do much, and yet they welcome her. Maybe their ears are more trained than the audience’s. Or maybe that was the best Steinfeld could do.
Along the way, almost incidentally and not in any painful sense, “Pitch Perfect 2” is a musical. (It’s a little like “Glee,” but without the sappy earnestness.) There’s a terrific scene in a private nightclub, in which several a cappella groups — including the Green Bay Packers! — compete against each other. And the production numbers are great to watch, including those of the competition.
Better still, the ending of “Pitch Perfect 2” arrives five minutes before it’s expected.