It may not break any new ground, but Pitch Perfect provides lively entertainment in the hitherto unexplored world of collegiate a cappella choirs. Built on a template that’s familiar to anyone who’s seen such movies as Bring It On, this comedy uses an engaging cast and a parade of popular songs (energetically recreated by several choral groups) to create a buoyant crowd-pleaser.
Anna Kendrick is a model 2012 screen heroine: smart, unsentimental, defined as an outsider but not so off-putting as to lose our rooting interest. A college freshman, she dreams of being a deejay but is persuaded to try out for her school’s only female a cappella group, the Barden Bellas—who are still recovering from a huge embarrassment at last year’s finals at Lincoln Center in New York. (Borrowing a page from Best in Show, the film is punctuated by running remarks from a pair of television commentators, played by John Michael Higgins and one of this movie’s producers, Elizabeth Banks.)
The Bellas are run with an iron hand by Anna Camp, who refuses to deviate from their standard playbook; her closest ally, Brittany Snow, isn’t one to rock the boat, even as they are forced to recruit a brand new roster of singers (including the very funny Rebel Wilson). But Kendrick is the real rebel who tries to bring a fresh sensibility to the group’s stale repertoire.
Directed by Jason Moore, who staged Avenue Q on Broadway, and written by Kay Cannon (whose TV credits include 30 Rock and New Girl), Pitch Perfect is sharp, amusing, well-cast, and fun to watch, even as it covers formulaic territory.