There's no effing fun in a summer where you can't sing along with the Barden Bellas. So thank the aca-gods for Pitch Perfect 2, a spirited sequel to the surprise 2012 smash that showed the fictional Barden U. that an a cappella talent contest was not just a dude's game. Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and the gang are seniors now, with career issues. Amy's bush-revealing wardrobe malfunction in front of President Obama forces them out of Barden and onto a global stage. Can they win the world title against Das Sound Machine, a coed group the Bellas call "Deutschbags"? Like you ever doubted.
Familiarity does not breed Glee-style contempt, thanks to the superior talent on hand. Kendrick is a live wire, and her scenes with the terrific Keegan-Michael Key as a dickhead music producer are pure gold. Wilson is a scene-stealer no one is safe from, subverting the PG-13 rating at every turn. Props to her. And True Grit Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld makes a vibrant addition to the Bellas, campaigning against covers for her original songs.
The sequel is more musically varied, though Kay Cannon's script amps the sass at the expense of structure. But the MVP here is Elizabeth Banks, back along with John Michael Higgins as the hilariously clueless guardians at the a cappella gate, but also in a new role: director. In her feature debut, Banks shows all the right moves, bringing fizz to the tiredest clichés and reveling in a screen full of musical girl power. She's a Bella, indeed.