Pitch Perfect Directed by: Jason Moore Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Skylar Astin, Britney Snow, Anna Camp, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee Running Time: 1 hr 51 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: September 28, 2012
PLOT: A gaggle of singing girls (Kendrick, Wilson, Snow, Camp, Knapp, Lee) in an a capella group called the Barden Bellas strive to win a championship.
WHO'S IT FOR? Pitch Perfect certainly has some demographics locked, and they might be amused by its fluffier bits. Those on the fence are risking spending two hours on stereotype jokes and flat musical flashiness.
EXPECTATIONS: I saw the trailer for this movie back with The Dicator, and I have to say ... there were a lot of fat jokes. Though I was interested to see the latest music-driven movie, I tried to put that initial thought in the back of my head.
Anna Kendrick as Beca: It is easy to bemoan the misplacement of Kendrick in this movie, despite the fact that it does feature her singing for the first time since 2003's Camp. After all, Kendrick is definitely above this teeny fluff; she has been more interesting as "average" girl in other roles than she is here as a condensed byproduct of a Hot Topic angst. Her character has such a non-believable and forced background (She's a DJ, and she can sing well? Since when?) that Beca becomes fairly unlikable - and that's before having to sit through her bratty representation of angst. Score: 4
Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy: After appearances in movies like Bridesmaids and What to Expect When You're Expecting, Wilson is becoming a double-edged sword of humor. She is able to make jokes that show pride and confidence in who she is and what she looks like, which does win the audience over. At the same time, the jokes are still about her, with the line toying with whether she is being laughed at, or laughed with. Can we have someone of the non-Kendrick body physique not have to resort to toying with the delicate line of self-deprecation? Score: 4
Rest of Cast: Astin's character Jesse doesn't over do his small servings of nice guy sweetness. His easygoing goofball may not be all that funny, but he is charming in a corny sense. Many of the other singers in the group are, excuse me, one note. Camp's Aubrey is a the stuck-up conservative (with a little darkness to her, maybe?), Knapp's Stacie is the one who is so sexually liberated she calls her vagina a d*ck, and Lee is a comical version meant to play on the quiet Asian stereotype, while making her sound like someone from Audition. The playfully ironic "one note" character is Brittany Snow's Chloe, who is later able to have a man's vocal range. However, though it is said that she can't sing as high anymore, it's a perfectly indirect (accidental?) commentary on the vocal capacity of pop music anyway - a more limited vocal range wouldn't actually stop a person from singing the same melodies. Score: 3
TALKING: Like pop music, Pitch Perfect finds a crowd pleasing joke and keeps referring to it desperately until the movie finally ends. First, there's the addition of the prefix "aca" to any particular word or phrase (such as "Aca-'scuse me?"), which rings with the same lack of creativity in its aca-randomness during any of its usages. Equally quickly worn down is the lazy knack this script has for having side characters make repetitive jokes about themselves, as if it were meant to provide backstory, when really, it's just holing these characters into archetype. Many of the jokes are about the shocking nature of these characters, and the script loves to reiterate just how "weird" they are, whether they "have a lot of sex" (like Stacie) or are overweight but have a sass about it (Fat Amy). Score: 3
SIGHTS: With the actual performances of a capella leaving much to be desired when it comes to visual spectacle, Pitch Perfect does have a couple of moments in which the editing boosts the excitement of watching people harmonize. A cleverly edited sequence in which a group of various auditions are all spliced together makes for something more lively than just watching a group of people sing the same song (a good arrangement of "Since You Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson certainly helps). Sometimes when people are singing, the editing and sound mixing is kind enough to include viewers in on the idea of listening for a particular voice in a harmony, reminding audiences that a capella songs don't just happen when a gathering of people simply open their mouths. Score: 3
SOUNDS: A collection of pop songs known and not-known-so-much are given a capella renditions, ranging from "F**k You" by Lily Allen to "Magic" by B.O.B. Not one to miss a shoulder-shrugging cliche, Pitch Perfect tries to find some sentimentality in covering Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me," which is a lame way to (undeservedly) borrow from the magic of The Breakfast Club's finale. Similarly, "Final Countdown" by Asia and "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" are thrown into the mix, reminding us that it might be a tad nauseating to hear pop songs again Pitch Perfect, but this certainly beats watching Rock of Ages barf up the 80s all over again. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: Kendrick's cup duet is very impressive.
ENDING: Though I am not saying I wanted more Pitch Perfect, I do think it was unnecessary to cut to the end at that specific moment. Why is it a cliffhanger as to what song they are going to sing next?
REWATCHABILITY: I like music, and I like harmonies. But even if I wanted to watch that, there are better places that I can go for that than this movie centered around the idea of a capella groups.
Pitch Perfect uses the same story arrangement as any of the films it is financially enabled by, whether they're about people stepping up to dancing, or participating in high school musicals. It is an unfunny silly movie about singers that stoops to easy gags (puke, quiet Asian girls, a fat girl), and I feel dumb for not being able to predict more of it.
But from what I gather, the impressiveness intended with the performances in Pitch Perfect is not meant to woo audiences with surprising song choices or even slick voice pipes, but rather inspire folk with the simple idea that the same songs one can hear overproduced on the radio are indeed still constructed from the basic musical components such as harmony and rhythm and can thus be condensed to an arrangement entirely produced by vocals of different ranges. Compared to the IQ of Pitch Perfect, yes, a capella is indeed a nonpareil beyond comprehension.
As Insane Clown Posse once opined, music might be a miracle, ("You can't even hold it!") but science proves that music, and in this case, yes, a capella music, is still the creation of concentrated people who use their trained, gifted vocal cords in a joined manner while also keeping a certain part of their brain fixated on a specific harmony. It's possible, but it's also hard (even matching pitch, as Fat Amy does in the beginning of the movie, is not a skill that comes to humans by simply listening to music). Yet despite how difficult this process is, none of this is ever justified in Pitch Perfect, a movie specifically about people who have to hone this specific craft to win a championship of absolute extremely unpredictable results.
A capella is a fresh way to reinterpret old material (if you're going to make something for the iShuffle generation, might as well try a new regurgitating machine). However, Pitch Perfect disappointingly insists on sticking on the rules, because, as uptight Aubrey says when defending her usage of their dinky "I Saw The Sign" cover (which we have to see at least three times), "We don't stray from tradition." Indeed, Pitch Perfect eventually becomes about the irritating wait for this a capella group, and the movie about them, to get with fresher times. (The only thing keeping them back from a championship is obviously a more liberal leader change.) I'll let you guess the fate of the Bellas themselves, but I can tell you that this movie itself doesn't budge. Pitch Perfect doesn't change a note.
FINAL SCORE: 3/10