Without a doubt, the biggest cliché in Hollywood movies is the sequel; the predictable follow-up to any movie that enjoys the merest modicum of success. The business of sequels is what keeps many studios alive, or so it seems, so there really is no escaping them. The fact that few sequels ever match the quality of their predecessor has become such a taken-for-granted reality that it seems almost redundant to address any shortcomings that such films may exude. The latest in this long line of sequels to reach cinemas is Pitch Perfect 2 and the lack of effort in coming up with a more imaginative title perfectly encapsulates what you can expect. This could be seen as a cynical attempt to cash in on the cultural cache of the first film, which was by no means a classic but certainly delivered considerable wit and charm. Directed and co-produced by Elizabeth Banks, who also reprises her role from the first film, there are a few moments of mirth to be found in this second chapter, but a slight storyline and an over-reliance on Rebel Wilson’s bogan shtick to extract laughs ultimately leaves the whole piece feeling a little undercooked. In this instalment, the Barden Bella’s are riding a wave of success as America’s collegiate a cappella champions until a wardrobe malfunction during a performance attended by President Obama leaves them as a laughing stock and banned from representing the college in any further competitions. Their only hope at redemption is to win an international tournament in Copenhagen and become the first American team to do so. With Aubrey (Anna Camp) having graduated college (but appearing here as the manager of a team building retreat), it is Chloe (Brittany Snow) who reigns as the unofficial leader of the Bella’s (an ongoing joke about her refusal to graduate so that she can remain in the group quickly wears thin). Both Wilson and Anna Kendrick return from the first film, with Hailee Steinfeld joining the ensemble as newbie Emily, a freshman following in the footsteps of her mother. The main problem is that there seems to have been little effort made in constructing a feature-length narrative that tracks the trajectory of their mission. As such, the story is padded out with montages – news reports about their fall from grace; a rehearsal sequence; their various humiliations at a camp designed to bring them closer together – and other scenes that offer nothing by way of advancing the narrative, such as a basement ‘sing-off’ against various other teams, including the German group who have taken over the Bella’s mantle atop the a cappella hierarchy. Meanwhile, a sub-plot in which Beca (Kendrick) takes on an internship at a recording studio unbeknownst to her fellow Bella’s never really eventuates into anything significant. Kendrick, who was the standout in Pitch Perfect and is equally adept at drama and comedy, is grossly under-utilised on this occasion and the film suffers as a result. When Kendrick is on screen, the film is much better for it, even if the screenplay lets her down on more than one occasion. In her first real opportunity to play a (somewhat) typical teenager, Steinfeld is also really good and, while Wilson is undeniably funny at times, she doesn’t offer anything much different from what we have seen from her in numerous other roles. The ever reliable Katey Sagal is a welcome addition as Emily’s mother, while Banks and John Michael Higgins are responsible for some of the funniest moments as two garrulous event commentators who lampoon the Bella’s incessantly amid witty barbs directed at each other. Yes, the direction lacks imagination and nothing that happens is likely to inspire any deep philosophical discussions about anything, but the engaging presence of Kendrick, a few genuinely funny moments, a series of up-tempo musical numbers and cameos aplenty from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Reggie Watts, Rosie O’Donnell, Jimmy Kimmell and Rosie Perez, ensures that Pitch Perfect 2 is a bit more than merely mediocre. Sure, it’s not a classic, but nor is it a catastrophe and those who enjoyed the first film will no doubt lap it up.