Pitch Perfect does an awful lot with the fine art of a capella singing and competitions, creating a sort of Glee-meets-Bring It On vibe. The best part of this 2012 musical comedy is the music, with loads of energetic and unique mash-ups providing for an invigorating soundtrack. Unfortunately, the material between the musical numbers winds up hopelessly average.
Pitch Perfect is based on Mickey Rapkin’s non-fiction novel of the same name. Rapkin covered competitive a capella for a season and learned about the ins and outs of the competition at the collegiate level. Two a capella competitors covered in Rapkin’s book were brought in to help with the songs and with getting the actors to go through the paces.
Anna Kendrick is Beca, a young woman arriving at Barden University against her will. Her father (John Hickey) is an instructor there and is paying her way through, but he’s disappointed with her “withdrawn” attitude and her focus on DJing as a career. He tells her to take on some extracurricular activity so she joins the Bellas, an all-female singing group competing in the collegiate championships.
Beca quickly clashes with the group’s leader (Anna Camp), but she makes an impact with her unique approach to singing. She melds the mash-ups of DJing with the group’s vocals, hoping to push the Bellas further in the competition. Beca also meets and becomes involved with Jesse (Skylar Astin), a member of the Bellas’ chief competitors, the Treblemakers.
The characters of Pitch Perfect are easy to like, which is half the battle. Beca makes for a good basic protagonist and Jesse is interesting as a potential romantic lead without being annoying. Rebel Wilson is funny as Fat Amy, while the smouldering Alexis Knapp is stunning as Stacie. Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins have some amusing moments as commentators at the a capella tournament.
The music is really the star of the show, though. Beca’s love of dance music is a nice fit with the Bellas’ more traditional outlook, while Fat Amy’s penchant for stealing the show adds electricity to the stage show. The Treblemakers are intensely fun to watch, with their use of various musical phrases proving whip-smart and their vocal blend thrilling.
For all the good the characters and music does for Pitch Perfect, the rest of the movie’s content is pretty bland. The budding romance between Beca and Jesse goes through all the right motions, proving as predictable as it is sappy. That it deliberately seems to mimic The Breakfast Club’s fist-raising fortitude doesn’t help matters as much as it thinks.
To stretch the movie to its nearly two-hour runtime, a lot of plot padding is required. Rather than focus on other groups or adding other musical numbers, Pitch Perfect tosses in a weird fight between a capella groups and spends far too much time trying to make hay out of a vomiting problem. And the script’s determination for jamming words together to form mawkish terms gets old in an aca-hurry.
Still, it’s hard to hate Pitch Perfect. With all the crap that generally floats through this genre, Jason Moore’s movie isn’t so bad. It may have an inexplicable contempt for Asians and may try a little hard to be hip, but it’s a pretty tolerable flick overall. And a little Alexis Knapp never hurt anybody.