Show choirs with social misfits competing for regional and national championships? Hands up if you thought Pitch Perfectwas a shameless rip-off of Glee.
But keep your skepticism in check, and you’ll be rewarded with a movie that, despite its superficial similarities and formulaic storyline, is funnier and possibly more relatable.
Pitch Perfectrevolves around Beca (Anna Kendrick), a feisty brunette freshman who might as well be surgically attached to her headphones. The Twilightand Up in the Air star is now obsessed with mixing her own music tracks on her Macbook Pro, which might even be a way to tune out emotional attachments to anyone – her father, her new university dorm roommate and guys, of course.
But for a chance that her professor dad will send her to LA to pursue her dreams to be a music producer, she agrees to give proper college life a try, and reluctantly signs up for an all-girls a cappella group.
Thus begins her initiation to the Barden Bellas, once the school’s polished and uptight show choir whose members donned costumes reminiscent of uniforms of air stewardesses, with looks and figures to match. But massive humiliation during the most recent competition sees the group’s numbers fall to just two – soloist Chloe, played by Brittany Snow, and Anna Camp’s control-freak conductress role of Aubrey.
The girls’ recruitment efforts yield the losers/outsiders that so remind you of Glee. There’s the lesbian in denial, the nympho, the morbidly obese girl, and the whisperer. This motley group of characters is also the reason why you find yourself clutching your sides in laughter every few minutes.
The most comical of these is played by Aussie comedienne Rebel Wilson, whose plump character calls herself Fat Amy, “so twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back”. Named “Top Ten Comics to Watch For in 2011” by Variety, Wilson is pure brilliance with her saucy actions and jokes delivered deadpan. “You guys are going to be pitch-slapped so hard your man boobs are going to concave,” she tells bitter rivals The Treblemakers, their university’s all-male a cappella group, and also the ones to beat for the championships.
Naturally, to add tension and romantic interest, new Treblemaker recruit Jesse, played by film newbie Skylar Astin, is irresistibly drawn to Beca’s mysterious allure, a dangerous development that could possibly get her expelled from the Bellas.
This, and the extremely attractive college DJ Luke, played by British heartthrob Freddie Stroma, who even gets to reveal his solid six-pack, would have been enough for some.
But music lovers will delight in Beca’s attempt to update their “last century” yawn-inducingly repetitive repertoire, with a delicious mash-up of “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars with Nelly’s “Just A Dream”. While not as vocally accomplished as the best powerhouses from William McKinley High, Kendrick can mesmerise you with nothing more than her voice and an empty cup.
Moving on to the flawless soundtrack… while you might be expecting a barrage of commercial hits, even indie fans will be thrilled with lesser-known numbers like electro-pop songs from The Naked and Famous and Yeasayer’s psychedelic rock tunes.
If we were to nitpick, Pitch Perfect’s appealing amalgam of characters may also be its weak point, as you might feel that not enough time was given to do them justice. Perhaps a sequel will allow viewers to delve deeper into the backstories of the fascinating individual characters, especially Fat Amy, and to listen to a dozen more of those yummy mash-ups.
Nevertheless, the myriad of tunes and raw talent on show in the sing-offs (much like the dance battles conducted in the Step Up film series) completely offsets the movie’s predictable factor.
Other than its comical aspect, the most likable part of Pitch Perfect has to be that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and sticks to being lighthearted rather than elaborating too much on the conflict that occurs — something often overdone by similar movies like John Tucker Must Die and High School Musical.
Assuming all that hasn’t sold you, here’s another bonus: Pitch Perfect also makes various references to The Breakfast Club, paying homage to the classic that pioneered teenage school dramas such as this film here.
If anything, Pitch Perfect made a surprising US$5.1m debut on its opening weekend, so you definitely know with all its sarcastic humour and amusing characters, it’s gotta be pretty damn perfect.
Movie: Pitch Perfect
Opens: Nov 8
Duration: 110 minutes
Age Rating: PG13 (Sexual References)
Genre: Comedy, Musical & Performing Arts
Director: Jason Moore
Cast:Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin
Check out the full tracklist here.