Review: 'Pitch Perfect' Hits All The Right Notes

Luckily, “Pitch Perfect” has just enough flaws to (almost) keep us from making terrible puns around its title, but this fun comedy is good enough to leave an a cappella version of “No Diggity” stuck in your head. For a week. If this film does as well as it should, expect an influx of mediocre singers at karaoke; meanwhile we’ll stick to practicing our rendition of “Starships” in the shower as we relive the awesomeness.

Anna Kendrick stars as Beca, a rebel forced to leave New York City and head for quiet Barden College where her father (John Benjamin Hickey) teaches. She wants to be a DJ, but her father won’t pay for her to move to LA unless she completes a year of school and makes an effort to like it and make friends. Meanwhile, the Barden Bellas, the all-female a cappella group on campus, is in serious need of new recruits after most of its talent graduated. While singing David Guetta‘s “Titanium” in the shower, Beca is accosted by one of the Bellas, Chloe (Brittany Snow). In an effort to please her father just enough, she joins the group and makes harmony with Chloe, Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and the rest of the Bellas–with one notable exception. Group leader/tyrant Aubrey (Anna Camp) doesn’t want any part of Beca’s new-fangled ideas, like veering from their Ace of Base and Gloria Estefan-heavy setlist. The Bellas not only have to compete with other schools, but they also have their fellow Barden group The Treble Makers to contend with. 

Unfortunately, boiling the film down to a synopsis robs it of its charm, and trust us when we tell you there’s much more beyond the surface. “30 Rock” and “New Girl” writer Kay Cannon penned the script, and it’s as much a star as the vocals and doesn’t go anywhere near “Glee” territory. We especially loved the catty back and forth between competition announcers played by producer Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins. For those moments and more, “Pitch Perfect” is delightfully funny and geeky, and it’s a fun addition to the sub-genre populated by films such as “Bring It On” and “Mean Girls” (and is just as funny). This is director Jason Moore‘s first feature after working on estrogen-driven dramas like “Dawson’s Creek,” “Brothers and Sisters” and “Everwood,” but more importantly, he was the Tony-nominated director of “Avenue Q” on Broadway. Surprisingly, “Pitch Perfect” doesn’t feel too stagey, which is an achievement in itself given both the subject matter and the director’s pedigree.
Everyone will be talking about Wilson after seeing this, and it’s well-deserved. She may not match theater vet Kendrick in the vocal department, but between the lines and the delivery, she and Cannon have created one of the funniest characters on the big screen in recent memory. But we don’t want to miss mentioning Hana Mae Lee, whose quietly hilarious performance wasn’t the focus of the trailers but almost steals the show from Wilson. 

It may be the high school choir nerds in us coming out, but we got chills hearing some of the harmonies in the movie, particularly the first shower-set duet between Kendrick’s Beca and Snow’s Chloe. It’s not an easy task, but these women can sing–and sing well–together. Throughout the film, the arrangements are solid and often inventive, creating versions that are just as infectious as the chart-topping originals. “Pitch Perfect” is based on a non-fiction book by journalist Mickey Rapkin about college a cappella groups, but it’s hard to imagine the story succeeding as much as it did without the rousing music. Seriously, we almost started singing from our chairs.
While “Pitch Perfect” features a female-heavy cast, it isn’t solely about their relationships with men and instead focuses on the competition and friendships. We also love that it was a diverse, talented cast that didn’t look like your standard Hollywood teen or college film filled with boring, homogenous beauties. But lest you think this is “Beaches” but with musical numbers, Cannon’s script and the genius that is Wilson ensure that the film’s appeal goes beyond just young women. It wasn’t a petite blonde who was laughing the loudest at our screening; it was a dude, and he wasn’t alone. The script finishes up exactly where you think it will, but along the way, there are enough surprises and perfectly delivered lines to make it a blast. Characterization is probably the film’s weakest point (of course, Beca is a rebel; she has heavy eyeliner, a tattoo, and–gasp!–multiple ear piercings), but it’s hard to hate too much on such a thoroughly enjoyable film. [B+]
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