Review: ‘Pitch Perfect’ Might As Well Be Called ‘Glee It On’
Let’s face it. Pitch Perfect, the musical comedy about rival a cappella groups in college, owes much of its box office existence (and studio greenlighting) to Fox’s Glee.
It’s also a great indication of how far nerd culture has come over the past decade. What was once deemed as dorky extracurricular activities (c’mon, singing pop tunes of yesteryear without instruments?) has now become an outlet for anyone who’s ever felt like an outcast — which is everyone — and transformed into an awesomely cool thing to be a part of. You get friends, you win trophies, and most of all, you experience the glory that comes with such artistic accomplishments. In other words, it’s not only hip to be square, it’s cool to be round, angular, and all other shapes.
In the collegiate world of Pitch Perfect, there are no football jocks or oafish frat boys who tease and torment the geeks. The “nerds” are not only the Big Men on Campus here, they’re also the bullies, especially in the competition circuit, constantly trying to one-up each other and riff on one other’s talents. This couldn’t be more perfectly illustrated by a character named Bumper (a hilarious Adam DeVine), the cocky leader of one of the singing groups featured in the film. He and his posse rule the quad with their silky smooth performances. They don’t need letterman jackets; they got a collection of sweet accolades to flaunt.
Star Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) is Beca, the “alt-girl” who’s new to this universe and would rather plug into her laptop and produce her own remixes (she dreams of being the next David Guetta — such are the aspirations of GenY artists nowadays). Forced by her professor dad (John Benjamin Hickey) to try one year of college before dropping everything to run off to L.A., Beca does her best not to be such an angsty hipster and tries out for The Bellas, an all-girls singing group that’s in major need of a vocal makeover in order to make it to “The Finals” in New York City. To all my Gleeks out there, especially you Lea Michele fanatics, this might sound all too familiar.
Skylar Astin (Hamlet 2), who could very well be the cuter, vocally blessed younger brother of Dane Cook, shows up as Jesse, another freshman who finds himself on a similar path as he joins the university’s champion boy group, The Treblemakers (wink wink). He and Beca meet cute early on, trade barbs, and bond over the soundtrack to The Breakfast Club (bonus points for paying respect to the John Hughes classic, one of my all-time favorites) — so you know lips will be locked before those closing credits roll. But it’s really Kendrick’s film here, and it’s fun to watch her help The Bellas break free from the musical chains enforced by its leader Audrey (the perfectly uptight yet one-note Anna Camp) and spice up their repertoire with some mash-ups of 21st century hits.
What’s even more fun? Cracking up over every line of dialogue that comes out of the mouth of career scene-stealer Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids, Bachelorette), who plays the self-monikered Fat Amy. Then there’s a nice cameo by head Hollywood nerd Christopher Mintz-Plasse and the highly enjoyable appearance of John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks as competition commentators who seem to be ad libbing passive aggressive jabs for a Christopher Guest farce.
Directed by the Tony-nominated Jason Moore (Avenue Q) and adapted by Kay Cannon from Mickey Rapkin’s book, Pitch Perfect is easy-breezy fare that will eventually pop up on Netflix recommendation lists for those who love such crowdpleasers like Bring It On and Easy A. As for conflicts, don’t expect anything more than the standard showdowns and banal bitchery that bounces back and forth amongst the girls. But do expect some inspired numbers performed by both rival groups, including a surprisingly kickass rendition of a Blackstreet single from 1997.
That said, to the cast and crew of Pitch Perfect I say, “I like the way you work it. No diggity.”
3.5 (out of 5) stars
– Hiko Mitsuzuka (@TheFirstEcho)
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