There's enough to laugh at in Pitch Perfect 2, and the singing is fun, but the movie doesn't match or exceed the polyphonic jubilance of its predecessor. It tries to fork over many of the pleasures of the first movie without changing them around all that much. There's a do-or-die competition (this time, the team to beat is a bunch of humorless Germans who call themselves Das Sound Machine), several romances that stumble before getting off the ground, and the usual ceremonial humiliation of the overweight girl. Rebel Wilson once again plays Fat Amy, who embraces her size with gusto, and you might say she makes her entrance ass-backward. Amy accepts her fate cheerfully, even though the embarrassment she suffers is really just sort of blandly unfunny.
Pitch Perfect 2 isn't awful; but despite all its striving to give us more, it just doesn't have the energy that a sequel needs to leap the bar of high expectations. Anna Kendrick, that adorable human chipmunk, returns as Beca, who is now rounding the end of her senior year at Barden College. Her sorority-slash–singing group, the Bellas, have inducted a new member: Emily (the charmingly low-key Hailee Steinfeld). Her only flaw is that she happens to have a gift for writing her own material, while the Bellas favor cover songs. So what's the problem, exactly? Meanwhile, Beca has become distracted by an internship at a recording studio run by an exacting tyrant, played, wonderfully, by Keegan-Michael Key -- every scene he's in has a crackerjack nuttiness, suggesting that, with better material, director Elizabeth Banks could take the loopy spirit she brings to her film performances and translate it into behind-the-camera vision.