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.