Directed By: Jason Moore
Written By: Kay Cannon (screenplay), Mickey Rapkin (based on the book by)
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson
Sometimes you run into one of those movies that knows what it is and embraces it with full force. Often that is the case for the turn your brain off action thrillers, but those types of films can also be found in other genres. Such is the case for the corky comedy Pitch Perfect. Riding on the coattails of the cultural phenomenon that is Glee, Pitch Perfect tells the story of an all-girls collegiate acapella singing group that is attempting to beat the odds and win Nationals. It comes off as a recipe for disaster; another studio film attempting to jump on the current zeitgeist hoping it will garner an audience. While that may have been the reason for its creation the end product is a film that is fun, full of spunk, and never takes itself too seriously.
In the film Anna Kendrick plays Beca, an alternative college teen looking to make a career in music. She has no interest in college, but due to her over possessive father has no other choice. Her father, who is also a professor at the college, tells her she has to get a college education first before she can move to Los Angles to pursue her dream to be a music producer. This college is a little different as acapella fever is at an all time high. Beca has no interest at first and is more caught up in mixing her own music together. However, while singing in the dorm shower a member of the Bellas, the college’s all girl acapella group, overhears and demands she enter tryouts. With all these forces pushing her to join she finally gives in, and before she knows it she begins to enjoy the lifestyle she previously cast off. When the Beca character was first introduced it was rather worrisome. Her character had generic anti-conformity written all over it. Luckily it toned down the ‘alternative’ side to make her feel like a real person just trying to find her place in this crazy world.
Opposing the Bellas in their quest to claim the National crown is their in-school rival the Treblemakers. Yes the punful names are just a small example of the humor that is all over this movie. The Treblemakers are lead by Bumper (I can only assume that’s his real name) the overly arrogant and vocal force behind their success. Adam DeVine plays Bumper and unquestionably goes all in with his performance. Much of the humor relies on irony and his character is the loudest example of that fact. His over puffed up attitude is only exemplified by his ignorance to his own awkwardness. He has a lot to be arrogant about as his Treblemakers are the hottest thing going in the world of Acapella. The Bellas on the other hand are on the opposite side of the spectrum coming off a catastrophe of a performance in last year’s Nationals. Hopefully with new members and a new look they can dethrone the Treblemakers to become champions.
I’m a fan of Anna Kendrick as an actress and think she has quite the career ahead for her. Most know her for her great performance in Up in the Air, and some may see this as a step back for her career. That is an unfair assessment because she is a big part of what makes this movie work. For one she can act and it turns out she is quite the singer. There are not many vehicles that allow actresses to show off their multitude of talents so I don’t blame them for taking advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself. The cast in general is rather strong with people who are legitimate triple threats. Their singing talents are strong, their acting is on par, and they have some decent comedy chops. Easily the stand out performance is Rebel Wilsonn who plays the self titled Fat Amy. When watching her performance it’s hard not to recall Melissa McCarthy’s performance in Bridesmaids. Both are off the wall characters who are always there at the right time to make a funny comment. If you know anything about Rebel Wilson’s career you know it’s full of these types of roles. Her character is used wisely and never wore out its welcome. She would often break up the drama when things were getting too soapy and melodramatic.
The overall plot is rather predictable and obvious, but the film is the first to admit that issue. There were a number of meta moments when it would comment on movies and the common tropes we have come to expect. Still that exercise didn’t make up for how muddled the plot got at times. Unnecessary conflict and subplots were the major issues. Much of it felt like filler as it was attempting to buy time between musical performances. Anytime it tried to get serious it would falter under the weight it created with its comedy. Everything was so absurd it was impossible to take any type of drama seriously. The comedic moments however were typically strong with plenty of self deprecating humor that would call out its own corniness. A lot of the comedy was also found in the array of off the wall characters. Almost every member of the Bellas has some strange feature that became a running joke. By the end all those running jokes did grow tiresome. There is only a certain amount of acapella puns one can take before that well runs dry. Also while it was open to poking fun at its own expense it would also be overtly clever as if to say, “Yes we are a joke, but don’t forget we are still great”. It’s like that guy who wants to gain geek cred by making random Star Wars references, but then will make fun of you for liking the movie. You never have a complete grasp of where its head is at.
A big question obviously is how was the music. Music is hard to judge as people have so many different taste, but overall it worked with the movie. Nothing blew me away or had me running to iTunes after the film was over, but I was never wishing for a song to end. Though I may need to go into some server music detox to get “I Saw the Sign” out of my head. The standout performance was when Anna Kendrick sang a solo just using a cup as her instrument. It was a welcome break to have such a simple and poignant moment with so much absurdity surrounding it. Personally acapella is a form of music I appreciate far more than I enjoy. When done right it is rather impressive to hear the music people can create just using their mouths, but when done wrong its awkward for everyone involved. In Pitch Perfect it worked far more than it failed.Overall that is a sort of a mantra for the film. Pitch Perfect is an easy watch to that has plenty to enjoy. It doesn’t hit on every note, but its tuned enough to make your movie going experience pleasurable. This certainly won’t be a number one hit, but it’s good enough to make it on the charts.