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Pitch Perfect Review: You're Gonna Love These Aca-B*tches

By Joanna Robinson | Film Reviews | October 5, 2012 | Comments ()


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Full disclosure: This reviewer was a full-blown a cappella nerd in college. As such, her views may not reflect those of the general public.

I generally like to avoid "I" statements in reviews. It's sort of an unofficial reviewer's rule. But let me just say, I haven't heard an audience hoot like the one I watched this movie with with since Channing Tatum demonstrated the double pump back in June. Pitch Perfect follows Becca (Anna Kendrick with extra eyeliner, so you know she's tuff enuff), a reluctant freshman at Barden College who's father, a professor there, strikes a deal with her: If she attends college for one year and really tries to give her classes and activities a chance, he'll let her move to LA and pursue her dream of becoming a music producer/DJ. And that is how, with Bella Swan-like sourness, Becca ends up joining the Barden Belles, the prissy all-girl a cappella group led with cheer-o-cratic precision by seniors Aubrey (Anna Camp) and Chloe (Brittany Snow). And because the Belles disgraced themselves the previous year at Nationals, they're forced to take in a motley crew of singers along with Becca including the real star of the film, Rebel Wilson as "Fat Amy." What follows is an entirely predictable, utterly enjoyable underdog story as the Belles face off against the all-male group on campus, The Treblemakers through a series of competitions and skirmishes on the road back to Nationals.

Pitch Perfect will draw inevitable comparisons to "Glee," and while some of the more enjoyable mash-ups and a particularly delightful "riff-off" may evoke the show's first, least problematic season, the better comparison would be to the you-don't-have-to-like-cheerleading-to-like-this classic, Bring It On. So let me promise you. Even if you don't like pop music or a cappella or sunshine, you can still have fun at Pitch Perfect. If, however, you do like those things, then the back to back to back musical numbers will delight you. This movie is packed to the gills with music and each number is somehow unencumbered by the cheese that smothered and killed "Glee." Director Jason Moore (Tony Award-winning director of "Avenue Q") deserves much of that credit as does the sharp script from "30 Rock" writer Kay Cannon. The film is also peppered throughout with fun cameos including co-producer Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as a cappella color commenters and an older babershop quartet played by Joe Lo Truglio, Har Mar Superstar, Jason Jones, Donald Faison. That's right folks, there's some moderate Turk dancing.

But enough cannot be said about Rebel Wilson, the Australian actress who upstaged Kristen Wiig and steals every scene she's in faster than a bearded Galifianakis. She's the real comedic anchor of the film and even when some jokes are over the top (a disgusting gag from early in the story makes an unwelcome repeat appearance), Wilson's breezy and blithe delivery brings the film back in focus. And though I couldn't swear to you there was no post-production monkeying with the voices, the performers do sound natural and unprocessed. The arrangements are tight, and clever and if you don't develop a massive crush on Anna Kendrick after seeing her perform Blackstreet's "No Diggity," then there's no hope for you. The B-plot of the film is a sweet and fairly predictable love story between the churlish, closed off Becca and her friend Jesse, played with sweet, Preston Meyers earnestness by Skylar Astin. He wears sweaters, loves The Breakfast Club and is just the kind of neutered, puppy dog boyfriend character that fits so perfectly in a film where "does she get the guy?" is not the central question. Jesse and the rest of Treblemakers provide fodder for what Pitch Perfect actually is: a pretty accurate depiction of most college experiences. No, most of us didn't break into song on the quad, but what Becca finds is that unique time in our lives when we can break out of the identities formed for us in high school. In that funky melting pot of college you can try something new, something "dorky," something "not-you" and discover you're not just an athlete, a basket case, a princess or a criminal. Cue the fist pump.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • logan

    Sorry this movie made about 15 bucks over the weekend. It must suck.

    *runs away*

  • Ginger

    Idiota, it was #6 on the top ten list and it was only open in 335 theaters. It hits wide release this weekend. Enjoy eating your words.

  • Kala

    I miss Blackstreet. There, I said it. I miss them and all of their early '90s ilk. Gone are the days of soulful crooner groups with varied dance abilities. Boyz II Men, Silk; ah, so many thinly veiled sex songs wrapped up in romantic packaging. Then fucking Sisqo had to release "The Thong Song" and well, that was the end of that.

    So I might be persuaded to see this based solely on the "No Diggety" cover. 'Cause I'm easy like that.

  • ZestyItalian2

    As a lover of thick ladies, Rebel Wilson feels like a kind of messianic figure in pop culture. Adele and Kelly Clarkson may have the music industry locked down, but precious few attractive big girls roam the film and comedy landscape. Cheers to big blonde and beautiful.

  • LibraryChick

    Queen Latifah reigns supreme for me when we're discussing attractive women of non-runway size. Too bad someone didn't think to cast her for a cameo in this film. I'm sure she would have made an interesting judge for the singing competition scenes.

  • Devin McMusters

    Rebel Wilson gives me a stiffy too.

  • Beau Hajavitch

    The Belles' leader tells Becca if she has sex with one of the Treblemakers, she'll be chased and eaten by wild wolves. Hey, will those be Taylor Lautner and his gang from Twilight? Maybe that could be their next sequel. How he sees it's Anna Kendrick and doesn't want to, you know.

  • name

    Was this better than the prequel, "Pitch Black"

  • JH

    This made me laugh far more than it should have.

  • The actors I recognize in this film are all very good trained singers in real life. I doubt they needed autotune. With a theater director at the helm, I doubt they used autotune. It's more likely old-fashioned movie musical editing, with doubled up voices at climaxes and some tweaks here and there to the blend/balance.

  • Brown

    Due to a my rampaging crush on Anna Kendrick, I feel this will be a Netflix Instant watch. I'm also somebody who taped the original Spike Lee a capella special on PBS way back in the day and even went and got the soundtrack. Both of which contain the best cover of "The Lions Sleeps Tonight" ever.

  • the_wakeful

    My girlfriend is no longer around, so I can't pretend I'm being dragged (drugged?) to this movie, so I almost certainly won't see it until it's on netflix and I can hide in my room with my headphones on.

  • celery

    This reminds me of my bf - he works in a movie theater so he gets to see 'em all for free, but if it's girly he can't watch it alone.

  • Snath

    Har Mar Superstar! Okay, I kind of want to see this now. Dammit.

  • Green Lantern

    Har Mar! Awesome.

  • jessb83

    This movie is basically the acapella version of Bring It On - utterly predictable, but still manages to be very sharp and funny.
    And I spent a good hour afterwards searching for Skylar Astin stuff from Rent and Spring Awakening on youtube. The kid is adorable.

  • KatSings

    I've been a fan of a cappella music all my life. I met my husband in a Madrigal ensemble, we made date nights out of staying home and watching The Sing Off, I have a station based around Pentatonix on my Pandora...hell, I went to see the ICCA in NYC in high school and started my own girls a cappella group that same year (our school had a barbershop quartet, but no counterpoint for women - we got the All State and Regional qualifying ladies from the program together and called ourselves the Salon Sextet and we were AWESOMESAUCE). Anyway. What I'm saying is, I'm stoked for this movie, and I'm glad it has some promise to live up to what I want from it!

  • Ginger

    Does that mean you, like me, heard the new Muse song
    "Madness" and were wondering if the Pentatonix would cover it. Because they should. Mother of god, they should.

  • E-Money

    The Sing Off forever and always. Ben Folds Presents: University A Capella changed my life a little.

  • Alyssa

    Yeah, this is the most fun I've had at a movie in a very long time. Absolutely loved it. I think your comparison to Bring It On is perfect. I went in expecting a cheesy mashup of Glee and Step Up (and would've enjoyed that as well). The movie was actually much, much better than that.

  • tamatha_uhmelmahaye

    It's funny you should mention Magic Mike, because the one and only time I saw the preview for this movie was when Internet Magpie and I saw MM together. And at the time, I leaned over and said, "We should see that movie!" So yeah, the two movies are connected in my brain. Good to know it's the sort of movie I will actually enjoy. Now to get on with the plan-making to actually see it!

  • You know what else killed "Glee"? Besides the inconsistent characterization and dumb storylines? The rampant autotuning. It warms the tiny black cockles of my heart to hear that this movie doesn't suffer from being overprocessed. I love a cappella, I love Rebel Wilson and Anna Kendrick, I am so going to see this movie.

  • TheAggroCraig

    I will now Youtube the "No Diggity" cover and then forget this movie exists.

    Update: mission accomplished.

  • firedmyass

    Sparkle on, you precious snowflake.

  • Jason Malmberg

    BUT WHAT ABOUT ADAM?!!?!??

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