Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Elizabeth Banks
You may like this if you liked: American Dreamz (Paul Weitz, 2006), Step Up (Anne Fletcher, 2006), Bring It On (Peyton Reed, 2000)
Beca (Kendrick) is a freshman (or fresher as we call it in England) at Barden University. She does not particularly want to be there and focuses all her efforts on being a DJ and music producer. Despite showing no interest at first, for the sake of the plot she is persuaded to join the Barden Bellas, who are an all girl a cappella singing group made up of total misfits (naturally). This group try to find some kind of harmony (get it?) and compete against and beat the Trebelmakers (a genius pun) the all male group who always win the national award. Of course much hilarity and ensues, there is a love story, and we have no idea how the film will turn out. Honest!
As someone who despises Glee and is none too keen on films of this genre I was happy to avoid Pitch Perfect. However, after hearing good things I thought I would give it a go and I must confess that I am glad I did. So maybe I have learnt my lesson to not judge a book (well, DVD case) by its cover? Maybe a little bit, but Pitch Perfect is in no way revolutionary and makes very little effort on the whole to escape the mediocrities of this genre. A vast majority of the scenes, plot developments and even lines of dialogue can be predicted before they occur. I did feel genuinely embarrassed by just how predictable, corny and clichéd some scenes were. The soundtrack is also extremely cynical and the tracks handpicked by the blokes in marketing so to maximise sales. I do believe the soundtrack has sold very well, so they have earned their money. However this is all actually forgivable as this a film that is not ashamed of what it is and almost embraces its flaws to produce a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining experience.
Our group of heroines is of course clichéd and generic, with every stereotype and demographic catered for, but was that ever not going to be the case? In fact they are almost exaggerated as part of the fun. Anna Kendrick’s protagonist’s character arc was taken straight out of an A level Film Studies text book but again Pitch Perfect knows all this and really does not care. It is the fact that this film does not ever take itself particularly seriously and is aware of all of its flaws (even sometimes poking fun at itself), but it just wants to have fun and that is why for me it was actually genuinely good fun to watch. The members of an a cappella group say things like aca-scuse me. That is genius! Shakespeare could not compete with that! When that is in the dialogue you know this film really does not care about the thoughts of snobbish film reviewers like me.
Anna Kendrick has never been more likeable in her role and the entire group of misfits seem to share genuine on screen chemistry that does make the both the arguments and singing good fun. Rebel Wilson admittedly adds a different element and her lines are hit and miss, some extremely funny and some plain irritating. However, overall this film is all the better for her character of Fat Amy. Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins provide genuine dry wit as two embittered judges who turn up to commentate on every contest we see. Anyone who has seen Best in Show or Dodgeball may have a slight feeling of déjà vu, but that is not actually a bad thing. Though the subtext of some of their remarks is hardly subtle, they do provide genuine laughs and an effective alternative to the cheesy dialogue of our heroines. Poor old Skylar Astin really cops it with the puke inducing dialogue he has to recite as the ‘love interest’. Oh, that reminds me, did I mention the puke gags? No? Well they work too as a perfect antidote to the sugar coated cheesiness of the plot.
Flawed as hell, and it knows it but Pitch Perfect is such an extreme example of self aware film making that it actually just about works and is tremendous fun. It will not win any awards for innovation and is predictable and corny. However if you are willing to embrace these flaws as much as those making it did, then you are in for a surprisingly watchable and enjoyable experience.