Pitch Perfect is one of those Overcome The Odds movies that would have served itself better had it been the first of its kind. You are familiar with the kind I’m referring to — the movie where a sports team, musical or dance act starts off at the bottom of the pile and has to push aside all the sneering competition and disbelievers to finally pull the rabbit out of the hat at the end. Pitch Perfect even tries to go one better. Instead of a breakdancing troupe or a football team, we get an a cappella bake-off.
I suppose the idea is there — a cappella groups have always inspired and fascinated me — but the journey our beautiful band of babes take is about as fresh as the songs they perform on stage year after year. And just when you’re hoping the screenplay will throw you a curveball, the catcher mixes up his signals and you’re struck out.
The movie begins with some promise. It introduces a very inane humour that had me chuckling like a buffoon a lot more than I was expecting to. We meet Beca (Anna Kendrick), one of those alternative girls who has pierced ears and mopes about with her hands deep in her jeans pockets. She wants to drop out of college and go to L.A. to pursue a music career. Her dad (John Benjamin Hickey), a professor at the college, makes her a deal: Try college out for a year and if she still hates it, he will finance her move to L.A. himself. There’s a catch: Beca must join an after-school activity club.
Along the way we encounter an Australian who calls herself Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) because she knows it’s the name people call her behind her back. She comes on strong in the beginning, maybe too strong to be very funny, but once she settles down she gradually eases into her role. She and Beca become members of the Bellas, Barden University’s all-female a cappella group. For years they’ve been performing the same routine at the a cappella finals, have always come runner up, and now Beca, with her DJ-ing background, steps in to try and spruce things up.
The Bellas are led by a senior named Aubrey (Anna Camp), who is as neurotic as she is pretty. Her rule to success is as follows: We will do what we’ve always been doing because it works. The tragedy of her rule is that it has never worked. It’s like the great Kurosawa always said when asked which of his movies was his favourite. “The next one”, he’d reply. Finally, in 1985, he admitted to Ran being his favourite. Aubrey is searching for her Ran.
Her co-captain is Chloe (Brittany Snow), equally pretty but infinitely more confident. She takes a liking to the new Beca and expresses this by storming into Beca’s shower after hearing her sing snippets of a song. Before you can say “don’t drop the soap”, the two are singing in harmony. I know very little about actual a cappella performing, but I’m sure that improvising a song from thin air is harder than cracking an egg without breaking the shell. The kids in this movie have mastered it superbly. There is a riff-off, as it’s called, in an old dried up swimming pool that showcases incredible improvisation. One kid begins a song and before long the whole team is oo-ing and aa-ing in, excuse my pun, pitch perfect synchronicity. It’s a nifty skill to have, especially when the university places a cappella singing above other activities, like football, or studying. Indeed, not a single scene takes place in a classroom.
Naturally, there is a love story in here. Beca is wooed by Jesse (Skylar Astin), the handsome and loveable boy next door who just so happens to be a member of the Bellas’ all-male rival team, the Treblemakers. Beca doesn’t know if she likes Jesse; Jesse has fallen for Beca. Two cents says they don’t kiss before it’s over.
If you’ve seen Dodgeball, a satisfyingly funny movie about a pedestrian sport, you’d know Pitch Perfect. Just take out the singing girls and throw in a bunch of angry ballers. It’s all the same. Would I recommend this movie? I’d recommend it for the singing, which is lovely. But if you want a good musical that has heart and a dollop of realism, you’re better off with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. At least that one had Tim Curry playing a transvestite.
Best Moment | “The White girl’s back”.
Worst Moment | The projectile vomiting. It’s as stupid as the impromptu tracheotomy performed by Sandra Bullock in The Heat.