Pitch Perfect 2
Director: Elizabeth Banks.
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld, Adam DeVine, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins.
IF you needed to study the formula for sequel-making, look no further than Pitch Perfect 2.
All the rules are adhered to - the characters have been brought down to a new low after the high of the previous film's climax, the stakes have been upped, the villains are tougher to defeat, and there's the requisite new character on board.
On top of this you have to ensure the vibe and tone of the film is the same, while striving to be bigger and hopefully better.
Pitch Perfect 2 certainly hits all those notes without being better than the charmingly funny and enjoyable original, but it gets a pass by being reasonably amusing and bursting with great musical performances.
This time around all-girl collegiate a cappella group The Bella Bardens find themselves in danger of being permanently shut down after a wardrobe malfunction at a Presidential event that would have even Janet Jackson blushing.
Their only hope of earning re-instatement is winning an international a capella contest, which would mean defeating the hot favourites from Germany, Das Sound Machine.
To do that, The Bellas need to re-discover their sound, overcome their fears, and realise that college can't last forever.
So much of the first film's success hinged on its humour and its harmonies, and while not as fresh second time around, those ingredients are still present. Kendrick's charm and Wilson's comedic skills are once again a plus, as are the snarky commentary duo of Banks (making her directorial debut too) and Higgins, who get all the best (and most inappropriate) lines.
There's enough goodwill from the first film to roll over and carry along this so-so sequel and help overcome its bum notes, largest of which is the way the middle section drags. In the second act we follow the Bellas through an underground a cappella competition (which benefits from a David Cross cameo and some great tunes), a team-building retreat, plus subplots for Kendrick's Beca and Wilson's Fat Amy thrown in for good measure too, and it's all a bit much as it slows the film and makes it longer than it needs to be.
A more streamlined script might have helped, but at least the pay-off is worthwhile - as in the previous film, the crescendo is a real showstopper. On top of the closing number, the aforementioned underground a cappella battle is a highlight, as is Das Sound Machine's impressive cover of Muse' Uprising.
Inevitably, a third film is in the works and it almost feels like Steinfeld's character was introduced merely so there was someone to carry the torch into another sequel after all The Bellas graduate.
But for all its flaws, Pitch Perfect 2 does all it needs to do to entertain those who enjoyed the original.