It films were marked purely on originality, Pitch Perfect wouldn’t do very well. It’s Bring It On meets Glee, with a plot that delves into pretty much every cliché of the underdog competition subgenre it can find. Thankfully though, Pitch Perfect has an excellent trump card, which is that it’s very, very funny.
Beca (Anna Kendrick) heads for college, but she doesn’t want to be there. She wants to go straight to LA and get into the music business, but her father has told her she has to get a degree first. He does eventually make one concession though – if she throws herself into university life and joins at least one club, he’ll support her move to LA after the first year if she still wants to go.
After looking around she joins the Barden Bellas, an all female a cappella singing group (which is singing without any instruments, in case you didn’t know). However the group is going through a bit of a crisis – during the national championship the previous year, one of the group’s co-leads, Chloe (Brittany Snow), barfed on the stage. Rather than the perfect young ladies they’re used to, the Bellas are now a group of misfits. However Chloe still wants to follow the old model, where they take old pop songs and give them a squeaky clean, traditional a cappella makeover. Beca thinks they need to update things a little and mash up some more modern tunes, especially to beat the university’s all-conquering male a cappella group. Can the girls come together, update their image and become champions?
While a cappella singing is a fairly unusual subject, the plot is as old as the hills. Pretty much nothing happens that you haven’t seen before, from Beca slowly falling for a member of the opposing singing group, to the Bellas’ staid style meaning they nearly get knocked out of the competition they’ve entered. However the movie seems well aware of this, simply using the story to hang a lot of musical numbers and humour from.
The tunes are good, with loads of a cappella versions of well-known songs – both recent chart hits and classic pop – most of which are a lot of fun. There’s even an a cappella rumble, where various singing groups get together for an underground sing-off. Admittedly you’ve got to be a bit of a musicals fan, but if you like Glee or its ilk, you’ll find a lot to enjoy here.
What’s best about the film though is how funny it is. Much is the credit for this has to go to Rebel Wilson as ‘Fat Amy’, who is absolutely hilarious. Although it would have been easy for the film to simply use her for fat jokes, it’s much smarter than that, making her very self-aware about how others see her but she simply doesn’t care. As she says, she calls herself Fat Amy ‘So twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back’. She’s a wonderful character with some brilliant lines that are played absolutely perfectly by Wilson. However she’s not the only who’s good, as some of the biggest laughs are reserved for the virtually silent Lilly (Hanna Mae Lee), who’s so quiet nobody around her hears what she’s actually saying.
Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins are great fun as the a cappella competition commentators. They help ensure we know right from the beginning that this is not a movie to take seriously. Instead it’s just about sitting back, enjoying the music and having fun.
Everybody gives their all to make this fun, with the only bum note coming from Adam DeVine’s Bumper, the leader of the rival all-male singing group. He appears to be trying to channel Jack Black, and as Black can be fairly annoying at the best of times, having his pseudo-love child in Pitch Perfect isn’t exactly a bonus. Luckily he’s only a small part of the movie, leaving everyone else to provide the laughs, anchored by Anna Kendrick, who ensures that a character who could have been rather unlikeable comes across as someone who may find it hard to open up, but is basically a good person. By the end you can’t help but root for her to get together with Skylar Astin’s Jesse.
Oh, and watch out for British actor Freddie Stroma as university radio station manager Luke. I couldn’t work out where I’d seen him before while I was watching the movie, but then I realised he played the arrogant Cormac McLaggen in the Harry Potter movies. He’s got insanely hot since he left Hogwarts, so he’s certainly a welcome addition to Pitch Perfect.
The film is pretty silly really, and it requires a decent amount of suspension of disbelief, but the result is a huge amount of fun. There’s plenty of music to hum along to, a fast-paced, entertaining story and plenty of laugh out loud funny lines. Indeed, it’s one of the few times recently I’ve been in a cinema where the entire audience was in stitches.
Overall Verdict: A charming, frothy and very funny movie, where you can enjoy plenty of a cappella takes on chart hits, alongside some great jokes and good performances.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac