Review: Pitch Perfect
PLOT: An anti-social college freshman reluctantly joins an all-girl a capella group and helps them on their quest to become the number one such group in the country.
REVIEW: A capella singing gets the wry, hip film treatment you been waiting your whole life for in PITCH PERFECT, a predictable crowd-pleaser that is essentially what I assume a feature-length version of a “Glee” episode would look like. I have never seen an episode of “Glee,” but I know it has a chipper, don't-let-anyone-hold-you-back attitude and a penchant for dramatic if unrealistic bouts of singing in it. And to watch PITCH PERFECT is to overdose on chipper.
Now, PITCH PERFECT isn't a musical, exactly, but it takes place in that odd alternate dimension where people sing at each other in order to show each other up. Like one of those dance movies where the kids “serve” each other by break-dancing their asses off. It's weird.
Based on the book by Mickey Rapkin, Jason Moore's film delivers the PG-13 version of an “edgy” teenager, Beca (Anna Kendrick), a sardonic loner starting her first year at the college where her father is a teacher. Beca dreams of being DJ, but of course has to deal with her pop's claim that it isn't a “real job.” (He's such a bummer, you guys.) Beca is more or less a fish out of water at this school, which is apparently the site of the country's foremost instrument-free singers; there are people just singing everywhere you go. Beca is eventually approached by a group called the Bellas because she can belt one out in the shower. The Bellas are desperate for a powerhouse singer; their last trip to the “finals” (yes, the finals of a capella singing) ended with an onstage “accident” by its uptight ice queen leader, Aubrey (Anna Camp). Aubrey is like, so stuck in the past; she's not cool like Beca, doesn't know anything about mixing genres or innovative stuff like that, you guys.
The Bellas main competition at the school is a group of dorks calling themselves the Treblemakers; in this movie's offbeat universe, the Treblemakers are the bad boys of the school, led by a thoroughly obnoxious man-child named Bumper (“Workaholics” star Adam Devine). A new member of this congregation is Jesse (Skylar Astin), who is naturally attracted to Beca, setting forth a series of scenes where the two fuss and fight and flirt with each other; their destiny to wind up together is sealed when he introduces her to THE BREAKFAST CLUB – just the last scene, for some reason – which also signals PITCH PERFECT's transparent attempt to be a modern-day John Hughes movie.
PITCH PERFECT doesn't feel the need to subvert its formulaic plot, even as it has a “isn't this kind of corny?” vibe that isn't necessarily as cool as it thinks it is. What it does do is rely on its copious amount of singing sequences to light up the room. Admittedly, a few of them are enjoyable, especially when Anna and the girls are melding new and old favorites. The film will be a major joy for those who appreciate the art of singing, and several songs, with their snappy upgrades, are bound to get stuck in your head. (How dare this movie bring back “I Saw the Sign”?!)
What elevates Moore's film into something a little more memorable than the redundant teen comedy it would be otherwise is its tendency to turn unexpectedly bizarre at any given moment. Rebel Wilson, who is finding her niche as comedy's go-to target/distributor of awkward fat-chick punchlines, is the main proponent of PITCH PERFECT's frequently odd bits of humor. Playing one of the Bellas' bevy of misfits, she calls herself “Fat Amy” so the other “bitches” can't do it behind her back and tosses out an assortment of quips and derisive one-liners; she's easily the funniest performer in the movie. But in addition to her, the film has a handful of strange moments and characters, like a peculiar Asian singer who mutters things about setting fires and eating her twin in the womb. There are a few unsightly vomit gags that would seem more at home in a Farrelly Brothers movie; I will confess, going into the film, I did not expect to witness the sight of someone making “snow angels” in a pool of puke, but I sure did.
Obviously, as a man in his 30s, I'm not the target demographic for PITCH PERFECT, but it certainly maintains just enough energy and quirkiness to be watchable. I did not feel like singing my heart out afterward, but I did have Ace of Base stuck in my head, so I suppose you can say the movie had an unusual effect on me, for better or worse.
|Extra Tidbit:||PITCH PERFECT opens in limited release on SEPTEMBER 28th; it opens wide on OCTOBER 5th.|