Pitch Perfect 2 Elizabeth Banks

Pitch Perfect 2 Elizabeth Banks
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Despite how effortless Elizabeth Banks may make it appear in her feature directorial debut Pitch Perfect 2, assembling a crowd-pleaser this infectious and funny is no easy feat. Taking on increased responsibility after producing the original box office smash, Banks grabs the reins and guides an endlessly talented cast through a sugary-sweet pop confection that offers a more assured and ambitious take on the colourful world of a cappella singing.

After a couple years of unequivocal success directly following the events of the first film, the Bellas of Barden University are beset by controversy when a performance in front of President Obama and the First Lady goes awry in viral fashion. Facing a strict punishment that involves indefinite suspension, the ladies have only one hope in saving their beloved group: win the upcoming World Championships in Copenhagen. This is complicated by the prospect of facing stiff competition from a refined and cocky German collective known as Das Sound Machine.

They're also forced to confront turmoil within their own group, as breakout singer Beca (Anna Kendrick) is distracted by a menial new job at a recording studio where she works for a rigid taskmaster (a wonderfully dismissive Keegan Michael-Key) in the hopes of climbing the ladder towards becoming a producer. Fortunately, they've just found Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), a promising new member of the Bellas and budding songwriter whose mother was part of the group years ago. 

The bubbly script by returning writer Kay Cannon brings the same hyperactive energy and high joke ratio that she showcased on 30 Rock while striking a nice balance between humour and the music. The film's best set piece deftly combines the two, as comedian David Cross portrays a wealthy eccentric who pits singing groups (including members of the Green Bay Packers in an amusing cameo) against each other in an underground competition for a chance to win an expensive gift card to Dave & Buster's.

With Beca now ensconced in a stable relationship, the film compensates by doubling down on two new love stories. While newcomer Emily falling for the bumbling illusionist Benji (Ben Platt) is a fairly by-the-numbers courtship of awkward proportions, the union of Fat Amy (a scene-stealing Rebel Wilson) and Treblemaker Bumper (Adam DeVine) makes for a much more amusingly rocky affair.

It's great to see so many of the characters given their own chance to shine, but as many of them graduate in a scene near the end, it's hard not to wonder about the future of the successful series now being placed squarely on the shoulders of Steinfeld. If that proves to be the case, she'll certainly have her work cut out for her if she hopes to match the considerable and incomparable charms of Kendrick.

(Universal)