- Pitch Perfect. Directed by Jason Moore. Starring Anna Kendrick.
Rating: 6 (out of 10)
IF you just can't get enough of people belting out show tunes and mash-ups on the likes of Glee, X-Factor, The Voice, and American Idol (the tunelessness of Name That Tune doesn't count, surely) Pitch Perfect, a feature film about dueling a cappella groups at a college campus, hits theatres today.
Anna Kendrick earned an Oscar nomination for Up in the Air, and she can sing, which is a welcome start. At age 12, Kendrick was the second-youngest-ever Tony award nominee, for her work in the Broadway musical High Society.
Kendrick plays aspiring DJ Beca, labeled as the edgy new girl at Barden College. (Never mind that other than some black nail polish, she isn't particularly edgy and, at 27, she isn't really young enough to play a college freshman.)
Beca is a committed shower-stall chanteuse until she is overheard - a la Zooey Deschanel in Elf - by a member of the Barden Bellas, an all-girl a cappella group still reeling from its leader's projectile-vomit incident at nationals the year previous. The Bellas, looking for all the world like a troupe of airline hostesses, realize that group turnover is a must, even if the new blood in the group is less esthetically pleasing than last year's.
A motley crew of stuffy girls and outcasts is assembled. Together they cover all the movie-girl archetypes, including the priss (Anna Camp, The Help), the fat girl (Rebel Wilson), the sexpot (Alexis Knapp, Project X), the quiet Asian (Hana Mae Lee), the hard case (Ester Dean), and the keener (Brittany Snow).
Love and competition arrive via Jesse (Skylar Astin) who wants to win Beca's heart as much as he does regionals, as a member of rival Barden boys' group The Treblemakers.
"It's not enough to be good, we have to be different," says Beca, who coaxes the Bellas out of their '80s and '90s blandness (where Ace of Base is considered "a classic") in favour of more modern flavourings (Rihanna, David Guetta, Lily Allen).
Kendrick can also be seen in End of Watch, opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, out this month. She is endearing without being cloying, the straight-man to the crazy crew surrounding her. But it's Wilson, best known as one of Kristen Wiig's dim-witted roommates in Bridesmaids, who gets some of the biggest laughs as Fat Amy.
The film is adapted from Mickey Rapkin's book Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory and is co-produced by husband-and-wife team Max Handelman and Elizabeth Banks, who is also featured in the film as an overzealous judge. And director Jason Moore certainly knows drama, having directed Jerry Springer: The Opera at Carnegie Hall.
The journey to regionals/nationals may be pedestrian, but the script is just jazzy enough to keep things from feeling like a Glee re-run. Musical mixes are entertaining (a musical riff-off in an abandoned swimming pool is a highlight), and thankfully the cast is full of people who can pull it off: there are several Broadway veterans; Dean has written for Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry.
Pitch Perfect is an ideal girls' night out (compare, if you will, the posters for Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect). Overall, a film that puts a melodic twist on the conventional girl power movie.