Rarely pitchy, consistently funny
“Pitch Perfect” is a tuneful smoothie concocted with several well-known ingredients thrown into a blender, including “Glee,” “Bridesmaids,” even a dash of “High School Musical.” It also capitalizes on what fans of the only modestly well known singing competition show “The Sing-Off” already know: A capella is “aca-awesome.”
Though it is derivative and its conclusions are predictable, the journey is consistently funny. And as soon as the plot begins to plod, an engaging song number rescues “Pitch Perfect” from the ash heap of forgettable formula.
Though nominated for an Oscar for “Up in the Air” and known as a supporting cast member of the “Twilight” series, diminutive dynamo Anna Kendrick is wonderfully understated in her first leading role as Beca, a too-cool-for-school college freshman. She initially scoffs at the recruiting efforts of the “Bellas,” an on campus all-girl A cappella group, while preferring to stay in her dorm and make mash-up mix tracks. She eventually relents and joins with the bubbly Chloe (Brittney Snow of “Hairspray”) and the tightly wound Aubrey (Anna Camp, TV’s “True Blood), along with other misfit girls including Fat Amy. played with steal every scene comic perfection by plus-size actress Rebel Wilson.
Sure there’s plenty of stereotyping going on in the portrayals, and the constant sexual innuendo (at least they’re college kids, not high school) tends to diminish the sweet natured campy tone, as does a gross out projectile vomit joke that is needlessly repeated. Of course there is a love interest, as rival group singer Jesse (Skylar Astin) crushes on Beca.
But the songs—from 80s nostalgia to current hip-hop and everything in between are creatively arranged, even if the choreography is less so. (This affirms “The Sing-Off’s” unequalled display of talent in all aspects of performance.)
It’s great to see a bigger girl like the Australian Wilson play a character providing the jokes (most of the time), as opposed to being the brunt of them. Apparently, uber-talented actress Elizabeth Banks read the book upon which the film is based and immediately bought the rights. She and John Michael Higgins have a ball as the competition’s snarky commentators.
It all adds up to fairly harmless fun, without a heavy-handed agenda (aside from a worthwhile “girl power” spirit), an achievement “Glee” seems to have forgotten to attempt a long time ago.
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, language and drug references.