The central plot of “Pitch Perfect” has been done so often now that I’m going to start calling it “The ‘Sister Act’ Plot”. Random band/choir/and in this case, competitive a capella group, has become stale and set in their ways, and then a new member with fresh ideas insists on shaking things up and a power struggle ensues on the way to the championship/big event at the finale. I’ve seen that plot 600 times, in fact, this is the second time this year (the first being “Joyful Noise”).
In addition to the been there done that structure, “Pitch Perfect” is also filled with really broad comedic characters, and then peppered with a cappella group competitive routines… which, you can imagine, aren’t my cup of tea.
Still, the charms of the cast, and the humor that does land overcomes the weaknesses enough to tip the balance slightly in “Pitch Perfect”‘s favor.
Beca (Anna Kendrick) is the type of girl who doesn’t make friends easily. She’s attending a new college, and is more interested in making music mash-ups on her laptop than she is in making new friends. When she’s caught singing in the shower by a member (Brittany Snow) of the campus all girls competitive a capella team, the Bellas, she gets convinced to check it out. It turns out that the team has experienced massive turn over this year due to graduation, and they need to almost assemble an entirely new team this year from scratch.
Their biggest competition in the a capella circuit is the all male “Treble Makers”, who coincidentally, are also from their school. There’s a strict Bella policy against romantic relationships with “Treble Makers”, which inconveniences Beca, as she begins to develop feelings for Jesse (Skylar Astin), a member of their team.
So Beca has to fight off her blossoming crush as she and the other new members of the Bellas (notably Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy) learn the uptight songs and conservative choreography of the group’s historically close-but-no-cigar competitive routines. Will Beca’s modern sensibilities work their way into the group’s act? Will Beca be able to usurp the group’s leadership from the domineering Aubrey (Anna Camp)? Tune in to find out!
“Pitch Perfect” is a much more direct attempt at a comedy than I had anticipated. I guess that I had envisioned more of a straight up competitive singing competition story, with Rebel Wilson providing comic relief. Which really isn’t the case at all. The movie is a much more overt attempt at being a comedy. It contains many broad comedic characters – ancillary group members that can easily be labeled if one so chooses, for example, such as “The Slut”, “The Psycho”, etc… and lots of straight up comedic situations, including an “inopportune time to vomit” scene. It wasn’t always done well. A lot of times, the humor attempts really fell flat for me.
These “Singing group” shows and movies are coming out so frequently that some people have to like them. Personally, I find them vapid and annoying, but there has to be a cross-section of the populace that enjoys them, otherwise the product wouldn’t get offered up as frequently as it does. So I’ll play the “not my bag, baby” card here, but I will acknowledge that if you enjoy hearing snippets of songs woven together (Oh my god, those songs are in the same KEY! We could totally mash them together!!) and sung without musical accompaniment while the vocalists perform watered down, quasi hip-hop dance on brightly lit stages, then this movie is loaded with scenes you’ll love.
I know I’ve been harsh so far, but there are certainly things here to recommend. First off, Rebel Wilson is awesome and every line she delivered was an absolute dead-on bullseye. Hysterical. If they do “Pitch Perfect 2: Fat Amy” I am totally down for that. And Anna Kendrick is charming as always, of course. Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins provide sarcastic broadcast commentary for the competition scenes, and they’re both funny as hell, too. So there’s a lot of entertainment mixed in along the way. In fact, at the end of the day, they tip the scales to read “Slightly more enjoyable than not”.
But my recommendation is cautiously delivered…