Directed by: Jason Moore.
Written by: Kay Cannon based on the book by Mickey Rapkin.
Starring: Anna Kendrick (Beca), Skylar Astin (Jesse), Brittany Snow (Chloe), Anna Camp (Aubrey), Rebel Wilson (Fat Amy), Ben Platt (Benji), Alexis Knapp (Stacie), Ester Dean (Cynthia Rose), Hana Mae Lee (Lilly), Kelley Jakle (Jessica), Wanetah Walmsley (Denise), Shelley Regner (Ashley), Caroline Fourmy (Mary Elise), Nicole Lovince (Kori), Adam DeVine (Bumper), Utkarsh Ambudkar (Donald), Michael Viruet (Unicycle), David Del Rio (Kolio), Elizabeth Banks (Gail), John Michael Higgins (John), John Benjamin Hickey (Dr. Mitchell).
There has been a lot of talk about “movie culture” lately – whether it is dead or dying or has just become more expansive, and more niche driven. If you want a reason to think that movie culture is in fact dying, looking at Jesse, a character in Pitch Perfect, who says he wants to write film scores when he graduates college – and shows Beca DVDs of the movies with the best soundtracks in history – Jaws, Rocky, Star Wars, E.T. and The Breakfast Club. Amazed that Beca hasn’t seen these movie he is intent on giving her a movie education – or as he calls it, in the way of annoying teenagers the world over who don’t have time to say two words when they can do a god awful mash-up of the two – “medication”. Let’s leave aside the fact that Beca has not seen any of these movies – who says she doesn’t like movies because she gets bored before they’re over (and you wonder why some people think young people have ADD) because not everyone can be a movie person or wants to be (and how sad for them we all feel). But how can someone who wants to work in film, writing scores, think that those five represent the best movie music can be? Someone get this guy some DVDs of Hitchcock, Leone and Fellini so he can marvel at the work of Bernard Herrman, Ennio Morricone and Nino Rota so he can start his own “medication” on what great film music can be. The last thing the movies need is another composer who wants to be John Williams, as great as he may be at times.
It may seem odd to start a review of Pitch Perfect with this kind of rant, but first of all, it’s true, and second of all, it was went ran through my mind while watching this movie. It isn’t a horrible movie by any means – it certainly isn’t painful to sit through – but it also isn’t all that interesting either. This is movie where I was searching in vain for a real moment – a moment where at least one of its characters reacted to something without ironic detachment or a quippy one liner. The moment never really came. Beca who complains that all movies have the same clichéd ending, would no doubt complain about the ending of Pitch Perfect – which may just have the most clichéd ending any movie this year.
Pitch Perfect takes place in the world of collegiate a cappella singing. The film opens at last year’s national finals where first we see the champions, an all-male group from Bardem University, perform and then we see their arch rivals – an all-female group from the same school. Things go from bad – old songs boringly performed – to worse – a member projectile vomiting – for the girls. Flash forward to the new school year, and the all-girl group is now the laughing stock of the school. Other than the projectile vomiter, Aubrey (Anna Camp) and her best friend Chloe (Brittany Snow), everyone else has left – and they have to assemble the kind of ragtag group that only ever assembles in the movies – an overweight, African American lesbian, a slut, an Asian girl so quiet no one can actually hear her, and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), who calls herself Fat Amy so, in her words “Twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back”. We know that “rebel” girl Beca (Anna Kendrick), who is only in college because her father, who is a professor at Bardem is making her, will join in soon enough as well – and that she will transform the group from boring to thrilling. We also know that she’ll fall for Jesse (Skylar Astin), that future film composer, who is now on the girls arch rivals. Oh, we also know at some point, Jesse’s lovable nerd roommate Benji (Ben Platt) will get his chance to shine.
So yes, Pitch Perfect is as clichéd as it comes, but the movie is not without its charms. Chief among them is Anna Kendrick, an actress who like Amy Adams, I find impossible to dislike any time I see her, even if, as is the case here, she really doesn’t have much to work with. She’s still charming, cute and amusing throughout. Another highlight is Rebel Wilson who plays Fat Amy who delivers all of her one liners with gusto – and provides the films biggest laughs. Now if only the screenplay gave her something to do OTHER than deliver one liners, she may have been great. And I did enjoy the byplay between John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks as the color commentators for all the competitions, even if, like Fat Amy, they have nothing to do except make jokes.
But, for me anyway, watching Pitch Perfect was an odd experience. Is the movie mocking a cappella groups or does it actually like them? I still have no idea, as every time anyone sings, it seems that we are encouraged to laugh at them, but also admire their skills – and yes, the people here are talented singers. The movie never really strikes the right note here. Pitch Perfect is a pleasant, but rather dull experience. If you’re a teenage girl or a fan of Glee (which the movie mocks which is odd considering Glee fans would seem to be the target audience), who may well like Pitch Perfect. If not, you should probably stay away.