Thursday 5 March 2020

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect (2012)

A bright comedy and musical, Pitch Perfect wades into the offbeat world of acapella college group rivalries.

Beca (Anna Kendrick) is a freshman at Barden University, where the all-boys Treblemakers compete with the all-girls Barden Bellas for acapella group supremacy. Beca is an aspiring DJ and only attending college to please her father, but joins the Bellas after meeting the group's leaders Aubrey (Anna Camp) and Chloe (Brittany Snow). Another freshman, an Australian who calls herself Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), is also among the group's newcomers.

As the academic year progresses the Bellas strive to improve and qualify for the regional and national championships. But the champion Treblemakers, led by the brash Bumper (Adam DeVine), provide tough competition. Beca clashes with Aubrey over the Bellas' choice of music, and starts to catch the attention of Jesse (Skylar Astin), a Treblemaker, although the Bellas have a rule against hookups with the competition.

Shining a spotlight on a corner of campus weirdness, Pitch Perfect adapts the non-fiction book by Mickey Rapkin as an unironic celebration of quirkiness. The characters inhabiting the acapella world all know they are somewhat nerdy, but stop short of frivolous self-awareness. The collegiates take the singing and competitions seriously, and their ecosystem, like any other campus niche, is a microcosm of the growing into adulthood experience.

The smart screenplay by Kay Cannon deserves much of the credit for sufficiently rounding several of the Bellas within their acapella world while maintaining a caustic edge. Beca is a change agent, Aubrey the defender of the status-quo, while Amy is uninhibited and unfiltered. Chloe is perhaps the most complex, a peacemaker with an open mind caught between loyalty and advancement. They are all starting to accumulate life's emotional baggage, and growing into people worth knowing.

The romance elements between Beca and Jesse are more standard and relatively underdeveloped, and the film's other loose strands include Beca's relationship with her father. The darkest humour comes from the competition commentators played by Elizabeth Banks (who co-produced the film) and John Michael Higgins. They infuse their booth duties with all the overinflated seriousness of major sports coverage, laced with a large dose of politically incorrect banter.

Director Jason Moore populates the film with plenty of peripheral fun in the form of typical college residents and tensions, from the student-run radio station to dorm roommates knocking on the edges of eccentricity. Even some of the rank-and-file acapella group members pop with personality.

The music is a mix of familiar and restless, Beca's penchant for innovative mixes just waiting for an impeccable moment to burst forth. Imminently likable, Pitch Perfect hits most of the right notes.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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