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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