Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Comedy Movie Review of ‘Pitch Perfect’ (2012)

Movie Review of ‘Pitch Perfect’ (2012)

Pitch Perfect is very much a product of the Glee craze, a glossy production aimed at teens punctuated by musical performances. It’s perhaps an enticing offering for girls and metrosexual males, but it’s unlikely that many other demographics will see any reason to check it out. How surprising, then, that Pitch Perfect is a moderately entertaining fare no matter your age or gender, another film in the mould of Mean Girls that’s both quotable and well-made. It’s more or less the Dodgeball of a cappella – an admittedly formulaic underdog story that’s nonetheless bright and enjoyable. Helmed by television veteran Jason Moore and written by Kay Cannon (adapted from Mickey Rapkin’s book of the same name), Pitch Perfect is a crowd-pleasing comedy destined to be enjoyed by more than just the die-hard fans of Glee.

Budding DJ Beca (Anna Kendrick) aspires to move to L.A. to pursue her dreams, but her professor father (John Benjamin Hickey) urges her to head to college to undertake a degree. Reluctant to take full advantage of the college experience, Beca is soon convinced to join the Barden Bellas, an a cappella group looking to repair their tattered reputation and take the top prize at the ICCAs (the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella). Surprisingly, Beca takes to the group and makes a number of new friends, including Chloe (Brittany Snow) and Australian singer Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson). However, Beca encourages the group to be more daring with their song choices and create mash-up tunes, much to the chagrin of stubborn traditionalist Aubrey (Anna Camp). Complicating matters is arrogant rival group The Treblemakers, one member of which, Jesse (Skylar Astin), takes a liking to Beca.

Slick and breezily paced, Pitch Perfect unfolds like a pilot for a television show, using a cappella as the personality backbone for what’s otherwise a standard-order comedy with young characters. The story is pure formula, make no mistake, with the narrative working towards a painfully predictable resolution. However, as taught by Jesse’s adoration for John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club, a film’s formulaic nature is forgivable as long as there are well-written characters to care about. Cannon’s script indeed contains a handful of terrific characters and is permeated with funny lines, most of which are about to become embedded in the public consciousness. Pitch Perfect is still harmed by several almost unforgivable comedic staples though, included cartoonish villains, stereotypes and a trite message of team spirit. Added to this, the film goes for cheap laughs from time to time, with a running joke involving projectile vomiting and a moment in which a character sloshes around in a large puddle of puke. Plus, when the group turns the tables on the insufferably obstinate Aubrey, it’s a case of “why didn’t they do that earlier?” The film runs far too long at around 110 minutes, and would’ve benefitted from being made as a zippy 90-minute feature.

After helming episodes of such TV shows as Brothers & Sisters and Dawson’s Creek, Moore relished the chance to direct his first big-screen affair here, mounting a film of comic energy, wit and visual assurance. It’s beautifully shot by cinematographer Julio Macat, too, and the production values are gorgeous despite the paltry $17 million budget. During the musical performances, though, Pitch Perfect is a mixed bag. It’s easy to see why the Bellas were so ridiculed since their trademark song is woefully boring, but even the Treblemakers are intolerable from time to time. Nevertheless, some of the musical numbers shine here, with the Bellas’ climactic performance an absolute joy, and the picture contains a satisfying mix of songs both old and recent.

Kendrick is frequently seen in supporting roles, playing second-fiddle to great actors in the likes of Up in the Air and 50/50, not to mention she was part of the abominable Twilight saga. It’s terrific, then, to see the endearing actress at last headlining a major studio feature. Watching Pitch Perfect, one can only wonder why it took so long for Kendrick to get her own starring vehicle; she’s a great screen presence, beautiful and believable, and she has actual emotional range. Kendrick plays one of those types who’s completely disinterested and distant towards everyone, and she pulls it off. Not to mention, she has a beautiful singing voice. Also fantastic here is Australian comedian Rebel Wilson, who was a scene-stealer in 2011’s Bridesmaids. Wilson has tremendous comedic energy and timing, and apparently improvised most of her dialogue. She’s a huge asset. The rest of the cast is equally impressive, with Anna Camp a believably stubborn Aubrey, and Brittany Snow very beautiful and charismatic playing the Bellas’ voice of reason. Also showing up in a glorified cameo is a hugely amusing Christopher Mintz-Plasse playing the college’s audition launcher, while Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins get a few moments to shine as the ICCA commentators.

Pitch Perfect is not pitch perfect by any means, but it’s a serviceable time-waster with laughs and a smattering of enjoyable music. If you enjoy teen comedies like Clueless and Mean Girls, there’s a good chance you’ll have fun with this one despite weak moments from time to time. It’s definitely one to watch with a group of friends.

6.5/10

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