Monday, October 8, 2012

Reel Thoughts: Preaching to the Choir

Pitch Perfect takes place at Barden College, a gorgeous old Ivy League-style school that is Ground Zero for nationally recognized a cappella choirs. The ruling kings are the obnoxious Treble Makers, run by douchebag Bumper (Adam DeVine), while the women’s group, The Bellas, are regrouping after an embarrassing projectile vomiting incident at Lincoln Center. Anna Kendrick plays Beca, a sullen wannabe DJ who is attending Barden as a bribe from her professor father. Barden is a college straight out of Glee-land, which means that Beca’s fabulous but undiscovered singing voice won’t be secret for long.

In a fairly homoerotic meet-cute scene, Beca is cajoled by Chloe (Hairspray's Brittany Snow, now a redhead) into trying out for the Bellas while naked in the co-ed showers. Beca immediately butts heads with uptight and vomit-prone Aubrey (Anna Camp, making a big impression) over how old-fashioned the Bellas’ song list is (Ace of Base and the Bangles? Check!). Meanwhile, Beca starts warming up to good guy Jesse, played by Hamlet 2 and Spring Awakening performer Skyler Astin, who ends up in the Treblemakers. Meanwhile, the Bellas under Aubrey’s leadership has to make do with a ragtag bunch of quirky girls, including an almost mute pyromaniac named Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), a fierce lesbian named Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) and the self-nicknamed Fat Amy, played by Aussie Rebel Wilson (who is in every movie this year, it seems).

“Aca-scuse me?” Aubrey says early in the film, and it's the last time that joke will be used. Pitch Perfect is directed by Avenue Q director Jason Moore and it has a cheeky attitude that yields a lot of laughs. The musical numbers are fun, and the cast is great. At the same time, Pitch Perfect can go flat when they push the humor too hard, and it isn’t as sharp as it could have been.

Fans of Christopher Guest films like Best in Show will enjoy producer (and Hunger Games actress) Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as wisecracking commentators on the National Collegiate A Cappella circuit. While Pitch Perfect isn’t perfect by any means, it is a fun and campy change of pace at the multiplex.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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