The 400 Word Review: Pitch Perfect
By Sean Collier
October 4, 2012
To find the closest relative to the new comedy Pitch Perfect, you don’t need to go too far back in time.
Earlier this year, the mostly plodding Joyful Noise was released. That film, a light drama about a competitive gospel choir, wouldn’t have looked out of place under the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” banner; Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton struggled for control of the small-town group, overcoming differences and whatnot en route to an anonymous (but apparently significant) national competition.
Oddly, Pitch Perfect has almost the exact same story as Joyful Noise, with collegiate a cappella groups substituted for gospel choirs. The same internal power struggle drives the middle act; the competing groups suffer the same pitfalls en route to the finale. Even the driving musical force is the same (in both films, the groups must eschew traditionalism and embrace the art of the mashup to triumph.)
Maybe this proliferance in sonic drama is the result of the ever-expanding roster of musical competition shows on network TV. And maybe the similarity in plot is simply because there’s only so many ways to make the tribulations of competitive song compelling. In any case, the two films diverge in one meaningful way: Pitch Perfect is entertaining.
Audiophile new girl Becca (the always reliable Anna Kendrick) is reluctantly pulled into a sorority-set a capella choir, perennially struggling for attention against a raucous all-male outfit. After tight-laced leader Aubrey (Anna Camp) has a emetophobia-inducing meltdown at a national competition, the group is forced to admit a roster of misfits.
Not much of a plot, admittedly, but surprisingly, hilarity does ensue. Kendrick, already a former Oscar nominee for Up in the Air, is a game anchor, and the strong supporting cast - notably Bridesmaids’ Rebel Wilson and likely future star Brittany Snow - put a stranglehold on their roles, inducing easy laughter in nearly every scene.
A witty, edge-of-absurdity screenplay by “30 Rock” writer Kay Cannon keeps things fresh, without veering too often into the farcical. And while leaps of faith are required - I’m not aware of too many people that can produce intricate 8-part harmony and arrangements on the spot, without the aid of ... anything - they’re more than forgivable in a light entertainment.
And, vitally, the music is a joy to watch. In real life, a capella performances are impressive, in Pitch Perfect, they’re edited into small riots. It’s genuine, unabashed fun.
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