Director: Jason Moore
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson
Released: 21st December 2012
Pitch Perfect is pure formula, but it is damn entertaining formula. Following in the footsteps of every great young adult comedy, this film that capitalizes on the success of Glee also succeeds in making singing competitions much cooler as the film realizes and understands that while a cappella groups can be some of the most fun and inspiring kinds of entertainment there is also an aspect to it that is slightly nerdy, but in the most endearing of ways. You can’t blame the people behind this for capitalizing on the success of a show but you can applaud them for not attempting to make a knock-off of that show and instead spinning something completely new, with a fresh take that celebrates its well-established structure and wears its heart on its sleeve. With a great cast of seasoned Hollywood youths and some new faces that more than hold up their end of the bargain Pitch Perfect becomes one of those films that young girls will flock to and guys will hate to admit they enjoyed. It is one of those films that will integrate itself into sleepovers and dorm room all-nighters where every line will be a catch phrase and a part of the culture that makes up this generations youth. It likely didn’t have such big aspirations going in, but with a consistent through line that references The Breakfast Club the film itself is well aware of what it is and the emotional (and musical) chords it needs to hit. Needless to say, it hits each of them perfectly delivering a fun, predictable romp through the adventures of being young and finding one’s self while making great memories in the process.
If you go into the film expecting something revolutionary then you should prepare yourself for a let down, but chances are if you end up going into Pitch Perfect at all you will get not exactly what you expect but more than likely exactly what you want. It would be easy to criticize the film for its lack of trying to re-invent the wheel when it comes to feeding the youth of America these types of pre-packaged comedies with a standard three-act script where you know the ending from the trailer. This feels especially true when dealing with this film. First off, it has Anna Kendrick as the lead. Kendrick has been everywhere and that’s coming from a guy who doesn’t watch the Twilight films. Kendrick has given herself a credible rep by starring in films like Up in the Air, 50/50, and even End of Watch from a few weeks ago. In all of these she is a small, but pleasant presence. In Pitch Perfect Kendrick takes center stage and proves herself more than capable of carrying a film on her own. She plays Beca, a college freshman at Barden University and an aspiring music producer. Beca doesn’t necessarily want to be at school but she is going for free due to the fact her father (John Benjamin Hickey) is a professor there. She is persuaded to join The Bellas, the all girl singing group that is famous for their showing at nationals the previous year where now-senior Aubrey (Anna Camp) blew chunks all over the crowd. After such an incident Aubrey and fellow senior Chloe (Brittany Snow) find it harder to recruit members. Hence the reason an alternative chick like Beca decides to join. Along with fellow outcasts Stacie (Alexis Knapp), Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean), Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) and of course Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) the Bellas of this year begin to look drastically different. Their is naturally a rival with the all male group known as the Treblemakers that include Beca’s soon-to-be boyfriend Jesse (Skylar Astin, who looks disturbingly like Dane Cook, does he not?). Another small touch that pays off big time is the pairing of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as the commentators at each of the competitions. It is back and forth charisma that feels like off the cuff improv.
This also embellishes further the main ingredient here in raising the film above anything you might see as a direct to video product (besides the production value). The quick whips of humor that are thrown in with consistent hilarity and hitting every topic and group of people you could imagine. The main enforcer of this is Rebel Wilson. You will likely recognize her most from her small role in Bridesmaids but if you’ve happened to come across Bachelorette or even What to Expect What You’re Expecting you will know she is more than a clever comedian who can steal a scene or two. Though Kendrick is the heart and soul of a film about a generation who most would like to describe as no longer being able to communicate Wilson is what you will look forward to when you see her marching into a scene. She has dubbed herself “Fat Amy” so that “twig bitches won’t call her that behind her back”. She is unstoppably hilarious, giving every single line her all and delivering them with such great comedic timing she raises the bar on herself with each joke. It is a high precedent to set for one’s self but Wilson seems to brush her shoulder off as if there is no pressure at all and she exudes confidence in herself; as if she knows she will always be able to turn a phrase or situation into an opportunity for comedy. The rest of the cast does a fine job of making the cliche’s they are made to play as genuine as possible. Even with a smaller role than expected Brittany Snow, who knows a thing or two about movies with music, shines in what is likely one of her final roles where she will be able to pull off “the student”. I hope the actress is given an opportunity to evolve as I’ve genuinely enjoyed her work while she has been able to play what are likely different versions of herself, but as she evolves I hope to see her range do the same.
And then there is the music. It is probably the one aspect of the film I was most worried about given how appealing the trailer was and how so often major films tend to be out of touch with the musical landscape of a broad group of people such as the audience this movie was looking to tackle. Even with the characters included in this ensemble there is a range of diverse musical tastes that are going to clash, but in a pleasant surprise it pulls this off as well. Making those songs we hear on the radio over and over again, the ones everyone knows but no one wants to admit they like because they are so mainstream. It makes them cool, it makes you want to sing along with them, and it works because every single person knows the words whether they want to or not. It also knows what songs to call back on from the early-90’s and captures perfectly the songs kids at their age would think of when presented with a challenge such as a riff-off. The mash-up’s are professionally done and will have fans of the film looking them up on youtube while the integration of the multiple songs into the actual performances are seamless and relentlessly entertaining. This is the case with the film as well. It is a standard teen comedy, but it has the charms of a movie that will allow it to leave a greater mark than anyone above the age of twenty-five at this moment in time will probably ever realize. I am a guy, in his 20’s, I enjoy all kinds of movies, I love music and despite the fact I am probably on the outer ring of the target audience here I still had a great time with Pitch Perfect. It accepts what it is with no inhibition and is all the better for it. Hell, the audience can even learn a few positive things here, and there’s nothing better than something that is as hip as it is educational.
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