Sisterly solidarity on song in sparky sequel

Rebel Wilson in Pitch Perfect 2  PA/Universal
Rebel Wilson in Pitch Perfect 2 PA/Universal

PITCH PERFECT 2 (12A, 115 mins) Comedy/Musical/Romance. Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld, Hana Mae Lee, Ester Dean, Alexis Knapp, Kelley Jakle, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Flula Borg, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine, Ben Platt, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks, Anna Camp, Katey Sagal. Director: Elizabeth Banks.

Released: May 15 (UK & Ireland)

Lightning almost strikes twice in the eagerly anticipated sequel to the feel-great comedy Pitch Perfect.

Actress Elizabeth Banks nestles in the director’s chair for this uproarious second outing and she confidently conducts a choir of familiar faces through soaring musical mash-ups and pitch-slapping putdowns.

Screenwriter Kay Cannon, who penned the original, enforces the message of femme power by contriving a spectacular fall from grace for the Barden Bellas in order that her plucky heroines rediscover their sisterly solidarity.

Beyonce’s anthemic “Run The World (Girls)” is a fitting opener for one medley of redemption, emphasizing that while these girls wanna have fun, they won’t do so at the expense of friendships or their careers.

Cannon pads out her admittedly flimsy premise with parallel romantic subplots and introduces a Latin American exchange student, whose life-or-death heritage becomes a running joke that limps before the two hours are up.

Thankfully, Rebel Wilson turbo-charges her scenes and is rewarded with the film’s only solo - Pat Benatar’s power ballad “We Belong” - that builds to a rousing call to arms for the broken-hearted.

Three years after all-female group the Barden Bellas triumphed in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, the girls perform for President Obama and his wife.

Fat Amy (Wilson) suffers a wardrobe malfunction during a Miley Cyrus-themed aerial routine and drags the good name of Barden University into the gutter.

In the wake of Muffgate, commentators John Smith (John Michael Higgins) and Gail Abernathy-McKadden (Elizabeth Banks) cast the Bellas into the wilderness and mock Beca (Anna Kendrick) when she claims they can become the first American group to win the World A Cappella Championships.

Beca, Fat Amy, Chloe (Brittany Snow), Stacie (Alexis Knapp), Jessica (Kelley Jakle), Cynthia-Rose (Ester Dean), softly spoken beatboxer Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) and new recruits Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) and Flo (Chrissie Fit) prepare for musical battle.

However, the path to glory in Copenhagen is blocked by well-drilled reigning champions, Das Sound Machine, led by the statuesque Kommissar (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) and her right-hand herr Pieter (Flula Borg).

The Bellas’ make-or-break performance beckons and Beca frets about her song choices.

“You’re the most talented person I know,” gushes Fat Amy soothingly, “and I’ve met three of The Wiggles... intimately.”

Pitch Perfect 2 hits many of the high notes of the original film.

Beca’s romance with boyfriend Jesse (Skylar Astin) is inert in the sequel so the spotlight shifts to Fat Amy’s on-off-on-off flirtation with Bumper (Adam DeVine).

Banks and Higgins lasso some of the heartiest guffaws, the latter spewing chauvinism with aplomb as he casually describes the Bellas as “an inspiration to girls all over the country who are too ugly to be cheerleaders”.

Musical sequences are choreographed with verve, including a rousing finale that astutely goes back to acca-basics to tug the heartstrings.

RATING: 7/10