[Review] – Pitch Perfect

13 Oct

Title: Pitch Perfect
Year: 2012
Director: Jason Moore
Writer: Kay Cannon, based on the book by Mickey Rapkin
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Skylar Astin, Freddie Stroma, Alexis Knapp, Adam DeVine, Ester Dean, Brock Kelly, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sexual material, language and drug references
Runtime: 112 min
IMDb Rating: 7.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Metacritic: 65

Mickey Rapkin, a senior editor for the best magazine in the world (that would be GQ, obviously) spent a season covering competitive collegiate a cappella, which resulted in a 2009 book called Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory and that’s now been adapted into this film that we now have here. When I saw the trailer for this one back in June I remember thinking that it looked just absolutely generic and not all that exciting, but something about the talent involved made me reserve a bit of hope.

I mean, Jason Moore was going to be directing, and even though this is his feature debut he’s a Tony nominee who’s made his name on Broadway shows like Les Misérables and Avenue Q, so he knows his stuff when it comes to song and dance; Mr. Rapkin’s book was set to be adapted by Kay Cannon, a writer-producer of 30 Rock so she had the pedigree to make this one funny; the great Elizabeth Banks was a producer and had a supporting role in it, and Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson were in the cast. So, yes, the trailer made it look all super generic but if this group of people were drawn to this then maybe there was something to see here.

As it turns out there really is something to see here. Don’t get me wrong, it is generic in the sense that the plot follows a formula we know all to well by now and you can pretty much telegraph every step this film’s going to take, but Pitch Perfect is just too damn fun, the performances across the board are all amazing and the musical numbers have an energy that’s seriously contagious. Plus these characters just feel real, they are genuinely funny and they all have their bits of weirdness; I’m not saying Pitch Perfect is a great piece of filmmaking but I am saying that it was quite a refreshing treat that really managed to surprise me.

Of course people will talk about Glee when talking about this film, it’s unavoidable, that’s the show that brought this kind of spectacle to the forefront of cultural relevance and The Bellas, the all-girl a cappella group that we meet at the start of the film is like the female version of The Warblers of Fox’s hit show. Anna Kendrick, a favorite of mine who’s also currently starring in the brilliant End of Watch, plays Beca, the lead role here, this girl who really wants to become a famous DJ and who isn’t really into these singing groups but is forced to attend the college where The Bellas exist because her father teaches there and, seeing how he’s so disapproving of her career wishes, enrolls her there without offering much of an alternative.

The Bellas choked at the previous year’s finals so they’re in need for some new talent and urge Beca to audition but she refuses. Her dad, though, fed up with her ditching classes, makes a deal with her that if she gets involved in a social club he’ll let her pursue her DJ dreams in Los Angeles. So of course she’ll eventually end up in The Bellas, clashing with one of the leaders of the group, Anna Camp‘s Aubrey, because Beca wants them to go for new beats and mash-ups songs and Aubrey wants to stick with the same set-list the group’s been using for years.

I don’t think I have to go any further telling you what the plot is all about, you can probably guess a fair share of it just from that outline of how it starts, you know there will be a romantic interest, played by Skylar Astin who starred in Spring Awakening on Broadway, who’s also a part of the Treble Makers, the all-boy rival group, and you know there will be a funny girl in the bunch, Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy, and yeah, you can fill in the blanks for yourself. Just let me tell you it’s all really, really good, partly because the musical numbers are really tremendous both to watch being staged and to listen being sang and mostly because these actors are just damn awesome.

Seriously, the whole cast is tremendous. Ms. Cannon’s script is just full of really neat zingers that rule and Mr. Moore’s direction blends all of that with the music in the best of ways, but the cast really steals the show. Ms. Wilson is becoming a bit of a scene-stealer after Bridesmaids and now this, she gives this audacious performances as Fat Amy and has a way of making every single line of dialogue she gets, even the mediocre ones, have amazing comic timing. Then you have Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins taking a big cue from Best in Show as they trade their snarky commentaries while the competition is going on which was just really hilarious.

And then there’s Anna Kendrick. Like I said, she’s a big favorite of mine, her Oscar-nomianted breakout role in Jason Reitman‘s masterful Up in the Air was tremendous, I ranked her as my 10th favorite supporting actress performance in last year’s 50/50, she was stellar in End of Watch this year and now she finally gets to run the whole show with a lead role. This movie depends on her nailing that central role and she really does, which is all the more impressive because the Beca role could have really grown tiresome with a lesser actress but Ms. Kendrick just makes her both hilarious and touching, I just thought she did an awesome job here.

Don’t say Pitch Perfect is the big-screen Glee, because it’s not. Sure, they share a mold and this probably wouldn’t have happened without that show, but this is a beast all of its own, with a sharp confidence and a really unique attitude that I really embraced, placing itself more like an a cappella Mean Girls than anything else. I was thoroughly surprised by this movie and I really recommend it, chances are you’ll be tapping your toes to some of the performances or laughing along with the jokes on display, or, most likely, both.

Grade: B+

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