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Second verse, not as good as the first.

The 2012 musical “Pitch Perfect” coat-tailed on the “Glee” phenomenon, but it was sufficiently likable and lighthearted to become a sleeper hit in its own right. Three years later, TV shows such as “Glee” and “American Idol” are folding their tents, but Universal Studios seems determined to build “Pitch Perfect” into a film franchise with staying power.

Problem No. 1 is that the talented cast of the first movie played college students who are supposed to graduate. Problem No. 2 is that the single new recruit, Hallie Steinfeld as freshman Emily, doesn’t have the comedy skills of the departing Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson. And Problem No. 3 is that the script is such a shameless repeat of the previous effort it makes “Blurred Lines” seem like a bolt of inspiration.

All told, the movie has about 99 problems, but pitch ain’t one. The ladies can sing, and their a cappella renditions of recent and classic pop tunes may be reason enough for the target audience of teen girls to go see it. But anyone older will recognize that “Pitch Perfect 2” is guilty of an honor-code violation.

Oh, and it’s not very funny, either. When the opening gag involves a wardrobe malfunction by Fat Amy (Wilson) in front of the president of the United States, we’ve entered sitcom territory, and the movie never rises above it.

As punishment, the three-time national champion Barden Bellas are disqualified from further competition — unless they can somehow win the World Cup in Copenhagen against the formidable German team, Das Sound Machine.

DSM’s statuesque leader (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) causes Beca (Kendrick) to question her own sexuality, but like the subplots about Beca’s job at a recording studio and Amy’s affair with campus security guard Bumper (Adam DeVine), it doesn’t amount to much. The movie is so underwritten that several of the nine Bellas barely even have lines.

The film was co-written and directed by Elizabeth Banks, and her uncensored-announcer schtick with John Michael Higgins is the most amusing thing in the movie. But competition comedies have been using that gimmick for years. (Just ask Bob Costas.)

In the climatic scene, the Bellas break protocol by performing something original. Let’s hope that the inevitable “Pitch Perfect 3” does the same thing.


What “Pitch Perfect 2” • Two stars out of four • Run time 1:55 • Rating PG-13 • Content Innuendo and mature language

Joe Williams is the film critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.