I’m a sucker for a movie that can get my toe tapping, and Pitch Perfect definitely fits the bill.
The story is simple: Beca (the stellar Anna Kendrick), is a moody rebel who makes her own music remixes on her Mac and dreams of working in the music industry. But her professor father forces her to go to college. But they make a deal, if she joins some clubs and has the full college experience then he will let her go to LA after only one year.
This college is lousy with a cappella groups and happenstance lands her with the all female group, the Acca-Bellas. Since losing the national competition the previous year, the group now must assemble a motley crew of singing misfits, including a near mute girl, a slutty one, a control freak, etc. Circumstances find Beca joined to this group as they sing their way through the film.
The movie is built off of template found in cheerleading comedy from 12 years ago, Bring it On. Except in this case, the edgy misfit who joins is the main character. We can see this down to the dialogue, whereas Bring it On had a cheering diction (“This isn’t a democracy, it’s a cheer-ocracy.”) Pitch Perfect uses A cappella (“Ac-excuse me?”)
This is a story with very few surprises. But what it lacks in originality it makes up for in fun.
First of all, the music is great. The hook for this film is the a cappella, where the singers have to fill out the entire arrangement only with the power of their voices. This leads to a lot of creative remixes and stylings that, even though we know they are meticulously produced, feel lively and spontaneous. The songs will get stuck in your head in a good way. Even older fare like Ace of Base’s “The Sign” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone,” get some top shelf treatment. My favorite, however, is the reminder of the fantastic Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget About Me.” Music can be a quick shortcut to character. It can convey emotion and motivation more efficiently than dialogue or action alone. Pitch Perfect lets the music speak for itself in its enjoyably smooth way.
The performances are also very good. This is not a movie that requires soul-searing emotion. But it needs a lot of charisma. We have to enjoy watching the actors do what they do. Anna Kendrick has always been stellar. She shines in anything that she does and this part is no exception. Despite her being obviously myopic and selfish (how can she turn down a free year of college?), we like her and want to follow her journey.
But the other show stealer is Rebel Wilson, who plays Fat Amy. Wilson has popped up in other comedic movies like Bridesmaids and What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but this movie really lets her show off her talent. She plays Amy as self-possessed and observant while at the same time oblivious. The best lines in the movie are Amy’s, and Wilson delivers them with an improvisational style that makes them feel fresh. The fact that she’s “fat” Amy isn’t really an issue. Often the “fat” character is used for gluttonous shenanigans or is made to learn to accept her state. Here, her weight is just another aspect of who she is, neither good nor bad, which is also in and of itself different.
The other supporting characters are successful to varying degrees. Our heroes are likeable, but often without depth. Beca’s love interest (played by Skylar Astin) is fun, sometimes charming, but not very important. The others girls in the Bellas are also one-note, but in a funny way.
Two issues I had with the movie deal with things that were unnecessary.
First, I hated the promiscuous sex and drinking. There was nothing overly graphic (the film is PG-13), but it just took as a foregone conclusion that freshmen in college would drink heavily and that a lot of the characters would belong to a hook-up culture. Now I realize that this is reality at a lot of universities, but it wasn’t that important to the story. I would like to recommend this movie to more people, but I wouldn’t have anyone under 15 watch it because of the constant references to sex.
Second, the movie was kind of racial. I don’t mean that it was racist, but it would bring up race in strange and pointless ways. There were jokes pointed at Jews, whites, Asians, etc. I wasn’t really offended by anything said, but I found it so very strange. It reminded me of college in that when I was at college, most of my professors were obsessed with race. Whereas for most of us, it isn’t really that big of a deal. I live by a Martin Luther King philosophy and think in a color blind way. So when someone points out all of these racial differences for no reason, I found it distracting.
But other than that, I had fun for my entire time in the theater. If you are looking to spend a pleasant evening with some good music and a few laughs, then Pitch Perfect is for you.
4 out of 5 stars.