The ladies sing it out in Pitch Perfect, which is indeed aca-awesome.
The Barden Bellas, the all-women a cappella group from Barden University, got oh-so-close to winning the big acappella championship last year. But while on stage, team leader Aubrey (Anna Camp) opened her mouth to hit the high note and instead puked all over the first few rows of the audience. So the Treblemakers, the school’s all male group, took the big prize instead.
Now, it’s a new year, but the disgraced Bellas are finding it hard to recruit. While Chloe (Brittany Snow), Aubrey’s right-hand gal, returns, they need to build the rest of the group from scratch, leading to one of those wonderful audition montages where they pick up the likes of big-voiced Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean), inaudible-voiced Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) and, most wonderfully, Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), who explains she calls herself that before skinny bitches like Chloe and Aubrey can say it behind her back. Reluctantly, Beca (Anna Kendrick) also tries out. She isn’t much for singing or group activities, but she loves music — in fact, she would prefer to be out in Los Angeles trying to become a music producer. When her father makes a deal with her — fully participate in at least one year of college and if she still wants to quit he’ll help her fund her L.A. dreams — she decides that acappella is within hailing distance of something she enjoys. Perhaps it also helps that Jesse (Skylar Astin), the cute fellow-music lover who met and began to flirt with her on the first day of school, is in the Treblemakers and thusly always around, such as at a sing-off or at the competitions where the Bellas’ stiff routines are frustrating the girls who want to inject a little life into the singing.
No, not the TV show, desperately trying to find itself now that its leads have graduated high school and all its characters have pretty much worn out their welcomes. No, I mean the emotion, the giddy high one gets while enjoying a bit of entertainment that is three parts fun, two parts love of the game. Pitch Perfect is gleeful, it delights in the music, whether it’s “No Diggity” or “Party in the USA,” whether Beca is creating some hip mix or rolling her eyes at Bruno Mars. The movie likes good music, but it loves all music. And it loves what I can best describe as the “dance movie” set-up — that mix of sports movie, leading-up-to-the-big-game plot structure and obsession with something that is both fun and, at its core, too super nerdy to be cool, like ballroom dance (Take the Lead) or street dance (any of the Step-Up movies) or marching bands (Drumline) or extreme cheerleading (Bring It On). Or, acappella — which is both dorky and awesome.
Pitch Perfect gave me a feeling of almost perfect glee.
In additional to a deliriously grand blend of music — just the right amount of good stuff, silly stuff and surprise — the movie features an excellent cast of women who are, sure, mostly in their mid to late 20s but make for just-right movie projections of the kind of college student you wish you’d been. Kendrick, best known as a supporting player, is solid as the snarky girl with a heart of Kelly Clarkson songs. Her love story with Astin is the picture of predictability, but it is also so charming it doesn’t matter. Anna Camp, so excellent in her supporting role on The Good Wife, also shines here, bringing more to the brittle aca-autocrat than there appears to be. And then there’s Rebel Wilson, who sort of materialized on the scene with her role as Kristen Wiig’s roommate in Bridesmaids and has seemed to be everywhere since then. It feels underwhelming to simply say she’s fantastic. She is a one-woman rebuttal to every bit of nonsense ever spoken questioning the abilities of women in comedy.
Pitch Perfect is 112 minutes of pure joy. A
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, language and drug references. Directed by Jason Moore with a screenplay by Kay Cannon (from a book by Mickey Rapkin), Pitch Perfect is an hour and 52 minutes long and distributed by Universal Pictures.