Movie Review: Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect

There are some films that I will always make a point of seeing in a theater… the blockbusters, the sci-fi visual effects extravaganzas, the genre spectacles… and there are other films that I don’t find necessary to see in a theater, but am tickled pink when they show up on cable or Blu-ray… generally dramas, horror, and silly comedies… but there is a third class of film that often becomes a staple in my movie viewing experience… the films that I don’t believe I would ever like, but eventually watch at home on cable in the privacy of my living room, over and over and over again.  Often these movies are just bad (Grown Ups comes to mind), embarrassing (any and all Twilight movies), or both (Anaconda anyone?)… and every so often there is a movie that is so fantastic (and/or fantastically bad) that I can watch it at any time, and at any point in the film, I will stop what I’m doing and simply watch the remainder.  Pitch Perfect has become the latter for me.

I certainly heard the buzz going on when it was in theaters (thanks to following Elizabeth Banks on Twitter, a co-producer of the film as well as having a smallish part), and I believe I even mentioned it to Mrs. Blahg at one point… but let’s face it, a movie about competitive collegiate a cappella isn’t generally in my wheelhouse, and the notion of walking into a theater, much less on my own, isn’t something I would be completely comfortable with (I’m not that concerned with how it would look… but still… you know… it would be a bit odd).

All of that said… what an utter delight Pitch Perfect is.  Using the tried and true model of “outcast has difficulty fitting in, but through sheer pluckiness and gumption, manages to join a group together for the win”, this film manages to become heart warming and hilarious, while also treating the viewer to a surprisingly fun inside look at a cappella singing… who knew?!  We’ve seen the model before in Bring it On and Stick It, two movies that rely on the same formula (and are in the same category of my loving these movies from the security of my couch)… as well as both films also being lead by a female cast, which in this case is positively fantastic.

Anna Kendrick leads the cast as Beca, the freshman who wants to move to L.A. to follow her dream of being a DJ/producer, but instead, is stuck having to attend the college where her father works, and is not having an easy time of fitting in or making friends.  Meanwhile, the all-girls a cappella group, the Barden Bellas, are seeking new recruits for their group after having suffered a major defeat involving a very pukey Anna Camp at last year’s a cappella competition finals, as well as having to deal with the insufferable all-male group, The Treblemakers… the cocky, bad-boy group of the a cappella world.

Although the Bellas have always been the group for the “pretty” and “popular” girls, things are different now (I never totally understood why this was the case… but whatever), and the leader of the group, Aubrey (the aforementioned Camp), must accept a group of misfits despite her extreme type A personality and laughably snobbish attitude.  The new Bellas consists of; the brash Fat Amy (the always shockingly funny Rebel Wilson), the whisper quiet Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), the sexpot Stacie (Alexis Knapp), the lesbian Cynthia Rose (an extraordinarily talented Ester Dean… seriously, check out her IMDB page… she did all the arrangements for this film, including many, many others), and the only other returning Bella along with Aubrey, the adorable Chloe (Brittany Snow)… she has nodes.  There are a few other Bellas, but you wouldn’t know it… but I give the film credit for even highlighting this fact.  At one point a crack is made about how some of them haven’t even seemed to be around, followed by an earnest, “we’ve been here the whole time!”

Beca is simply too cool for an a cappella group… but her dad wants her to get involved in something.  If she does, and still doesn’t want to be in school, then her dad will send her to L.A. to follow her dreams.  After hearing her sing in the shower, Chloe, who was busy with a male student in the adjoining shower, talks her into trying out for the Bellas… but Aubrey is all about the old, about the traditions of the Bellas and their staid and rather dull routine… Beca is all about the new, about the mash-ups and the hippity-hoppity new style of music.  I bet you can guess where all of that goes!

Of course, there has to be the boy… yes, one of The Treblemakers, Jesse (Skylar Astin) has eyes for Beca, but she can’t date him because Aubrey has forbidden any fraternizing with the enemy… and The Treblemakers, being the rebels of a cappella that they are (we know this because they sing with swagger… and in my favorite scene, all sit together in a tiny hot tub) are without a doubt, the enemies.  But Beca’s a rebel as well… and for as hard as she tries, Jesse begins to melt the ice-queen’s heart… and he does so with The Breakfast Club… cause, you know… that’s how it’s done.

For as formulaic and predictable as the movie is, it’s also very funny, heartwarming, and shockingly well acted and performed.  The gang-style riff-off in particular is wonderful for both being completely ludicrous (do these things actually happen?) and being remarkably entertaining in a way that I did not expect.  By the time you get to the finals, you will be cheering and excited to see whether or not they can pull themselves together enough to unseat those dastardly Treblemakers, and whether or not Beca allows herself to become part of something and Aubrey will let go enough to allow for change.

And of course… will Beca and Jesse ever get past their a cappella rivalry?  Don’t worry… I won’t spoil it!

Pitch Perfect is not groundbreaking… there is nothing wholly new to this film… but it is a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours and to simply have fun watching a cute and funny film that happens to take place in an otherwise little known world… competitive a cappella (seriously… who knew?), but in a not so little known format.  Kendrick is always a pleasure to watch… and there are moments when each of the Bellas has a chance to shine, Rebel Wilson in particular who can make me laugh with nothing more than a look (her performance in the finals is one of my favorite moments), and Hana Mae Lee manages to bring the funny in a few tiny moments that had me giggling for days (and yes… that really is her beat-boxing).

I may not be the target audience for Pitch Perfect... but it managed to worm its way into that special place in my entertainment world… the movie I will watch whenever it’s on.

She ate her twin in the womb,
Cornelius J. Blahg

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