Synopsis: Beca, a freshman at Barden University, is cajoled into joining The Bellas, her school’s all-girls singing group. Injecting some much needed energy into their repertoire, The Bellas take on their male rivals in a campus competition.
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Jason Moore
Running Length: 112 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: The poster for Pitch Perfect suggests that the film will be a mixture of Bridesmaids and Glee. And who said there was no truth in advertising? Plenty of films have been released (Bachelorette) or are in production (The Hangover: Part III) that are all about men and women behaving very badly for the sake of comedy. Pitch Perfect dials down the crude factor (kinda) and shaves a few years off of the main characters to give us a college set musical comedy that provides a respectable amount of laughs sandwiched between some mighty dreadful drama.
Opening strongly with a jaw-dropping display of…well…I won’t spoil it for you. Let’s just say that you’ll never listen to “The Sign”, Ace of Base’s ear-worm of a popular tune, the same way again. It’s a side-splitting moment and the film is smart enough to go right into a credits sequence as we recover from our laughter in the bold beginning. It’s this kind of editorial decision that I greatly respected in retrospect looking at the film, it’s edited around the laughs so we don’t miss pivotal pieces of information that may be relayed during a laugh break.
The film rides a nice wave of good will for the majority of its slightly too long running time by introducing characters that are recognizable and relatable. There are a lot of people to give screen time to so the film can’t really be faulted for trying to give everyone their due. Yes, pretty much everyone in the film represents a stereotype of one kind or another but isn’t that the case with most film and real-life situations involving a group of people?
It helps that the actors in the film have talent to back themselves up with. All of the actors really sing (at least I’m pretty sure it was all them) and to do so live and a capella is impressive. Kendrick, Astin, and Snow come off the best in the singing department with nice support from Wilson, Camp, and Ester Dean. The musical numbers and sing-offs are staged well by Broadway director Moore (Avenue Q) and it’s nice to see that with his first feature he shows dexterity with the cinematography and keeps things moving along at a nice clip.
It’s when the actors aren’t singing that problems creep into Pitch Perfect. Some of the more dramatic moments seemed like they were spliced in from a late ’90s television movie on various topics of divorce, sexual orientation, and depression. Every scene that Kendrick shares with her father (the usually dependable John Benjamin Hickey) falls victim to an overdramatic, false tone. The movie also ends without tying up a few key loose ends that started to bug me the more I thought about them. Issues involving roommates and school jobs are introduced to move the film forward but are not resolved in any satisfying way. There are so many plot holes that it now resembles a brick of swiss cheese in my mind.
Thankfully, the singing parts dominate and we are treated to tight harmonies and hyper-surreal displays of prowess as the movie plays (or sings?) out in front of us. As the leaders of the Bellas, Camp and Snow have a nice yin-yang dichotomy going on. It would have been easy for the actresses to switch roles to play more on their strengths, but having each actress play against type turns out to be a gamble that works. The star of the show, Kendrick, has a nice voice but is so unlikable and grumpy most of the time that when the inevitable softening of her hard heart happens, it seems to be because that’s what the script says rather than what the character feels. To her credit, Kendrick sticks with the role to the bitter end.
Australian comedienne Wilson has had a nice ascent in the last few years with memorable turns in Bridesmaids, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, and Bachelorette on her resume. I still think she’s due for a true starring role in a movie but until that happens these sly supporting roles should be profitable for her. Astin and other supporting characters have a nice look…even if most looked like their college years were long behind them. Banks (who also was executive producer) and John Michael Higgins laugh all the way to the bank in commentator roles they probably filmed in an afternoon. Worst of the bunch is icky Jack Black-alike Adam DeVine who I wanted to see drawn and quartered before the film was over. I didn’t even want to mention him in my review because he was so bad…but I wanted to use the term Jack Black-alike so…done and done.
Hitting most of the right notes, Pitch Perfect is one of those movies that would have been a box office smash in the early ’90s when these types of comedies really sold. There has been a bit of a saturation of teen films in recent years…and it’s unfortunate that higher quality films like this one might suffer because of a been-there-done-that feel. If you can’t catch this one in the theater, it would make a nice rental when it debuts for home viewing.