A respected critic that I follow on Twitter recently groused that Pitch Perfect 2 is barely a movie at all. And he’s got a point, it’s just a series of scenes, loosely strung together, all in an excuse to get our Barden Bellas back together, doing their thing—harmonizing, bonding, and cracking wise. More than one critic has noticed that the film flirts with some broad stereotypes—the Hispanic Flo (Chrissie Fit) constantly references her near-death migration experience; the Asian Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) is borderline mute (although do pay close attention to the insane things she whispers); the one black girl, Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean), also happens to be the one lesbian; and, of course, Fat Amy (reliably hilarious Rebel Wilson) insulates herself from fat jokes by making them first herself.
I can’t argue with any of that really. You’re all right, serious and right-minded movie critics of the world! And yet, at the same time, you’re all wrong, wrong, wrong. Because Pitch Perfect 2, which is directed with fizzy flair by actress Elizabeth Banks (who also appears in the film), is a freaking delight. It does exactly what it sets out to do: It’s a happy pill in cinematic form.
About that “plot”: When Fat Amy, making a wonderful entrance on a wrecking ball, accidentally shows Barack Obama her ladyparts, the Bellas fall from grace, so they must win an international competition—dominated by a highly disciplined German a capella team!—to be reinstated as an official school club. There’s a new girl (Hailee Steinfeld), a “legacy Bella”(her mom, played by Katey Sagal, was a member of the team in the 80s), who has a trick up her sleeve—she can write original songs. And, of course, there’s our aca-dorable heroine Beca (Anna Kendrick), who has taken an internship with an intense record producer (Keegan Michael-Key) and feels her loyalties divided between her own ambitions and those of the team.
There’s a sing-off (hooray!) where one of the categories is “John Mayer’s exes” and several spirited performances. The final number, an ingenious homage to Anna Kendrick’s insanely popular “When I’m Gone” (aka “the Cup Song”), ends with all the Legacy Bellas, including Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts (who knew?), on stage and actually had me tearing up.
And that’s the thing. Say what you will about the film’s wielding of stereotypes—it genuinely loves its characters. The affection for the Bellas, the Treblemakers (the Bellas’ boyband counterparts), and even those Teutonic crooners (Beca keeps trying to trash talk the intimidating lead singer, but instead says things like, “Your sweat smells of cinnamon”) positively emanates from the screen. Sometimes at the movies, you just want to hear some great singing, kick back, and succumb to your inner goofball. In that way, Pitch Perfect 2 is perfect.