September 28, 2012

Pitch Perfect

Glee: The College Years

Grade: C +
Director: Jason Moore
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson and Alexis Knapp
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 52 min.

Here’s the sum total of what I learned watching Pitch Perfect: a) Anna Kendrick has a shoulder tattoo; and b) some member of the Screen Writers Guild thinks doing snow angels in a pool of puke is just hilarious. Oh, and that sometime in the evolutionary history of music, a cappella singing began including musical accompaniment.

Pitch Perfect is like Glee (except it’s not) crossed with West Side Story (except it’s really not) transported into the competitive world of collegiate a cappella (except it isn’t). It projects a sort of pseudo-hip movie world in which people named Beca, Chloe and Lilly congregate, and groups of (mostly white) school kids can instantly lyricize and harmonize any pop/hip-hop ditty—even ones they express no sign of ever having heard—via means of arty osmosis.

As a freshman at Barden University, the perception of Beca (Kendrick) as a dour “alt-girl” lasts just long enough for director Jason Moore to label her such. Motivated by her dad’s vague promise to move her to California and explore a musical career if she’ll only give college one year’s chance, Beca doffs her multi-piercings and dons the blue blazer of the Barden Bellas. The Bellas are a troupe of Stepford singers looking to salvage their campus rep after their uptight lead, Aubrey (Anna Camp), upchucked during a tournament performance of Ace of Base’s The Sign (hey, who hasn’t been there?). Consequently, the only crooners the Bellas attract this season are a group of misfits that include a black lesbian, a low-talking, pyromaniacal Asian, a sex-obsessed soprano, and an overweight Australian (Rebel Wilson) who actually calls herself Fat Amy.

The story follows the path to the college a cappella championship at Lincoln Center. Along the way, half-written subplots involve Beca’s affinity for creating mix beats and musical mash-ups on her laptop, the Bellas’ beef with a nerd-filled rival named The Treblemakers, and Beca’s slow-building flirtation with Jesse (Skylar Astin), a Treblemaker member. If you get past the faux-hipness of “impromptu” renditions of Blackstreet’s No Diggity and Rihanna’s S&M, there’s an infectious energy in the musical compilations and Broadway-style choreography.

Kendrick can do little wrong in my admittedly subjective eyes, and here she both carries a tune and adds some essential wry levity. The presence Wilson, a bit player in Bridesmaids, seems intended to convey that film’s mix of gal laughs and lewdness—still, she’s the actor with the sharpest comic timing.

While Pitch Perfect is hardly so, it’s mindless musical merriment. Just don’t see it on a full stomach.

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