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Pitch Perfect Hits All The Right Notes

by Angel Cohn September 28, 2012 6:10 am
<I>Pitch Perfect</I> Hits All The Right Notes

I have to admit, I was very excited to see Pitch Perfect. I love musicals, all thing musical theater and the movie Camp (which also had Anna Kendrick) and am still upset that The Sing-Off has been cancelled because there is just something about well-executed a capella music that impresses me. And I don't mean the silly show choir overproduced stuff they put together on Glee. However, the commercials heavily feature Rebel Wilson, and since a little of Rebel goes a long way, I was worried that she was going to overpower the film. I was also a bit concerned that while ostensibly a comedy, the movie might take the subject matter too seriously, like how every time the word Regionals is uttered on Glee as if it loftiest goal in the entire world, which makes me die a little on the inside. So I was excited but with trepidations as I headed into the theater... and after five minutes, I was laughing out loud (along with the rest of the audience) and having a really good time at one of the most fun movies of the year.

The premise is pretty simple: Chloe (Brittany Snow) and Aubrey (Anna Camp) are in charge of the Bellas, one of four Barden University a capella groups, and after a disastrous (and disgusting) performance at Nationals, the girls are having a hard time soliciting new recruits that live up to their standards. So they reluctantly broaden their horizons and include Fat Amy (Wilson), the whispering Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), the aggressive lesbian Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) and the slutty Stacie (Alexis Knapp). And, after Chloe overhears Beca (Kendrick) singing in the shower and accosts her naked, they add her to the group as well.

Beca's a loner, "edgy" because of her multiple ear piercings, a DJ and works on her music most of the time, but agreed to get involved in extracurricular activities so that her father will consider sending her to L.A. after a year if the whole college experience fails to click. She ends up working at the college radio station with Jesse (Skylar Astin), who tries to woo her by using The Breakfast Club and his general puppy dog quality, but as he's a member of the rival Treblemakers, he's off limits in the dating department. Aubrey is extremely specific about how consorting with the enemy will get you swiftly eliminated from the Bellas.

Beca's willing to play by the rules of dating, but is less than thrilled about the tired choices of music (from the '70s and '80s) that the Bellas have chosen to perform for Regionals. But when she tries to jazz things up with one of her signature mash-ups (all of which reminded me that I didn't always hate mash-ups, until Glee's overusage), things start to crumble amongst the Bellas and they nearly miss out on their chance to go back to New York for Nationals.

All of this plot business sounds a little bit dull, but with this movie, the details are what really matter. John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks play the irreverent commentators who seemingly travel the country announcing these singing competitions with scathing aplomb. Banks (who also has a producer credit here) steals the movie with her lines and her delivery, thanks to zingers like "Nothing makes a woman feel more like a girl than a man who sings like a boy." In fact, the script is full of laugh-out-loud elements that poke fun at the ridiculous nature of the rivalry between these a cappella groups (and how they add "a ca" to everything, never gets a ca-nnoying at all). Little throwaway lines and visuals about bologna boobs, mermaid dancing, lady jam, horizontal running and sock puppets all hit for a quick laugh and get out of there, exactly how comedy should be handled. And it's the same with Wilson, who has some of the best moments, but is used in blessed moderation.

The cast is all game, with Kendrick serving as the straight (wo)man line and flirting with Astin (who looks like Dane Cook's younger brother) while Camp and Wilson work at the complete other end of the spectrum with their disgusting behavior. Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the obnoxious Adam DeVine, who plays Bumper, the utterly smackable leader of the Treblemakers. There really are no weak links here, and the cameos were all welcome and only added to the insanity, instead of taking away from the main action.

And since this is a movie about singing, I have to talk about the music. Kendrick deserves credit for doing a more than capable job with Blackstreet's "No Diggity" during a bizarrely funny You Got Served-style head-to-head sing-off battle. That whole scene was probably the highlight for me, but even Wilson had a solo that wowed later on. Not sure how much the actors had their voices "enhanced" for this, or if they were all hired for their singing ability, but they sounded pretty good to my ears.

My biggest concern is that the movie will suffer from comparisons to Bridesmaids, especially given that Rebel Wilson's role seems to be cut from the same cloth as McCarthy's now infamous part. And while the commercials seem to avoid showing it, there are a lot of truly (and I mean truly) gross, gross, gross things that happen in this movie. Not necessarily to the level of the Bridesmaids bathroom sequence, but definitely in the same comedy vein. But with those similarities, the movie reminds me more of the original American Pie, with a bizarre cast of young friends doing some raunchy, yet amusing acts. This is clearly about that one time at vocal camp.

I actually look forward to watching Pitch Perfect again because there were so many one-liners that it was almost hard to catch them all with its rapid-fire pacing. And while the plot may have been a little on the predictable side -- okay, a lot on the predictable side -- the humor felt fresh. Plus, it's not every day you get to hear "Let It Whip" as a capella.

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