Movie review: Pitch Perfect 2 struggles to hit the right notes

Review Musical comedy

PITCH PERFECT 2 (PG13)

115 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2.5/5

The story: After an embarrassingly disastrous performance, the Bellas are banned from recruiting new members on campus. The only chance for them to redeem themselves is if they win the World Championships of A Cappella in Copenhagen. The band of sisters include ambitious Beca (Anna Kendrick), out-there Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and high-strung Chloe (Brittany Snow). Freshman Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) manages to join the group as her mother used to be a Bella.

The first Pitch Perfect (2012) was a sleeper hit, grossing more than US$113 million (S$150 million) on a budget of US$17 million.

The music video for the song Cups sung by Anna Kendrick has racked up close to 200 million views on YouTube and the album was the best-selling soundtrack of 2013.

In other words, a sequel was inevitable.

But how to take the story forward?

In the earlier film, the Bellas won the national a cappella competition. So this time, they head for the world championships, but it feels like a perfunctory progression.

Pitch Perfect opened with a performance marred by projectile vomiting. So the sequel opens with Fat Amy accidentally flashing the audience during a stunt gone wrong - an incident quickly tagged, among other labels, as Southern Exposure.

The jokes strain for laughs and border on the offensive, whenever a ridiculously sexist commentator (John Michael Higgins) shoots off his mouth. The idea, which does not work, is that he is so off- the-charts outrageous that he is funny.

The Bellas themselves are a collection of paper-thin types. The exception is Kendrick, who gets a little more plot to work with as Beca finds herself thinking about life beyond college and interns at a record label.

Her crush on the Amazonian leader (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) of the German group Das Sound Machine is also mildly amusing. Every time she tries to come up with an insult or retort, Beca ends up complimenting her instead.

Still, for a Kendrick who sings with genuine emotion, catch her in The Last Five Years instead.

Mostly, the middling Pitch Perfect 2 muddles along from incident to incident. The more interesting competition is not the world championship, but a strange little sing-off between a cappella groups that takes place mid-way through the movie.

Actress Elizabeth Banks from The Hunger Games franchise makes her feature directorial debut here. She probably found that getting the Pitch right, much less perfect, is harder than it looks.