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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Pitch Perfect (review)

Pitch Perfect yellow light Anna Kendrick

I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I blame Glee. No, wait, I blame High School Musical. Aw, hell, maybe we have to go as far back as Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon to find the root cause of fun and funky students breaking into song at predictable intervals. Not that it’s a bad thing, certainly not here in the half adorable Pitch Perfect, which posits a world in which “organized nerd singing” is so popular and widespread that even an apparently small campus like that of fictional Barden College can support four competing a cappella groups turning out fun and funky renderings of pop tunes. Enter freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick), who is “alternative” — which means she wears lots of eyeliner and mopes around — and wants to be a DJ and hence wants nothing to do with the Barden Bellas, the smooth blonde all-girl a cappella band desperate to recruit new voices this academic year so they can compete on a national level. Yup, national collegiate a cappella competitions are a thing: this is based on a nonfiction book by Mickey Rapkin, fictionalized by 30 Rock writer Kay Cannon. Alas, the film’s TV roots — director Jason Moore hails from that medium, too — don’t do it any favors. The characters beyond Beca are sketched in broad sitcom strokes, even when it makes no sense whatsoever — why would the Bellas accept as a member a girl so softspoken no one can hear her when she speaks, without even tossing the requisite “surprising” scene in which she belts out a song like an opera diva? There’s enough charming here to make me wish that the movie had trusted itself enough to know that it doesn’t need to dispense grossout humiliation to the characters in order to make them appealing. (Ya know, it’s okay to make movies about groups of women without multiple vomiting scenes. I blame Bridesmaids for creating the illusion otherwise.) Someone is trying way too hard here, and the film loses the sense of airy drollery it promises in the beginning. Still, that someone is not Anna Kendrick. It’s a wee bit disappointing to see her backpeddling from adult roles — as in End of Watch and Up in the Air — to play a kid again, but she’s got real comedic bite, and it’s nice to see her carrying a film. Also hugely entertaining are Elizabeth Banks (What to Expect When You’re Expecting) and John Michael Higgins (Big Miracle) as Best in Show-style a cappella competition commentators. Now, if we can just let Rebel Wilson (Bachelorette) — here as another Bella singer who calls herself Fat Amy — get away from relying on self-abusing fat jokes as a way to “entertain” us…

see also:
Pitch Perfect 2 movie review: out of tune
Pitch Perfect 3 movie review: pitch, please…

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Pitch Perfect (2012) | directed by Jason Moore
US/Can release: Sep 28 2012
UK/Ire release: Dec 21 2012

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated IAOOT: in and out of tune
MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual material, language and drug references
BBFC: rated 12A (contains moderate language and frequent moderate sex references)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    I guess Rebel Wilson needs work as much as the next actress, but… I really want to see her as something other than Generic Fat Girl. A real comedy that’s not about bodily functions, or (heaven forbid) an actual dramatic role.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    Huh. I thought you liked Rebel Wilson.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    Kinda hard. Most fat actors play Fat Guy (John Goodman in Argo and Jonah Hill in Moneyball did not, but it’s still pretty much the rule). I honestly don’t remember ever seeing a movie where a fat actress that had a relevant character wasn’t (generic, comedic or pathetic) Fat Girl.

  • RogerBW

    Yeah. I’m not holding out much hope; I’m just annoyed, because she has flashes of a really interesting acting talent, and I want to see her get to use it.

  • amanohyo

    Are you a spambot or a just really, reeeally satisfied DISH customer/employee?  I can’t tell anymore… let’s just have a look at your post histor… Holy Mother of Spam!  We’ve officially reached the unspammy valley – you had me going for a second.

    Whoever programmed you did an excellent job – unless you are a real human, in which case, try harder (the Redbox trash talk was a dead giveaway).  You are also unbelievably bland, even by British robot standards.  Zing!

  • I think usually I would hate this type of film – I loathe Glee and HSM, but for some reason this really impressed me. Maybe I should get checked out by a doctor with symptoms of multiple personality change or something, but…. it was good. eek……. did I really just say that!

    My advice to anyone, would be just give it a try.

  • somePithyUsername

    Agreed and more. Not to mention the many racist stereotypes that the film uses. Ugh.

  • The sequel is even worse with the racism.

  • somePithyUsername

    Thanks for the heads-up, will be sure to avoid it. Pity because, the movie actually showed the ever mythical female friendships *gasp*. (If Hollywood were to be believed, we women never have female friends, atleast not ones that we won’t be backstabbing, hating on or stealing partners of, etc.) And if we can get past the benevolent sexism and the sheer gross-factor (ugh, ugh, UGH), the movie wasn’t too bad. However, I did get the NiceGuyTM vibe from the male lead character –of course in movieland, he was actually a nice guy.

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