When you write a review for a film as extraordinary as The Master, the words come rapidly and overflowing with praise. When you a write a review for a film as contrived as Trouble With The Curve, the words come equally as fast but stuffed with painstaking annoyance. When you write a review for a film as ridiculous as Pitch Perfect, however, the words come frustratingly slow and packed in a big dilemma. Here is a movie constantly played for such immature laughs that it’s difficult to tell people to drop upwards of $10 to see it, yet it’s so shamelessly over-the-top that it’s also hard not to be infectiously entertained.
The delightful Anna Kendrick stars as Beca, a stubborn college freshman starting her year at the fictional Barden University. Friendless and misunderstood, Beca isolates herself in her music, where she’s constantly crafting ear pleasing mash-ups and electronic mixes. When the prim Chloe (Brittany Snow) overhears Beca singing in the shower, she asks the rebel to join The Barden Bellas, the college’s most disgraced and dysfunctional a cappella group. Though obviously reluctant at first, Beca comes around and, along with a ragtag group of girls such as the feisty Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), she joins the Bellas with hopes of winning Nationals against their cocky school rivals, the all male Treblemakers.
If it all sounds like Glee, well, it is, only with an NC-17 rating. Whereas the FOX television show is cheeky, sweet, and chock-full of social messages, Pitch Perfect is edgy, racist, sexist, grotesque, and, honestly, just bat-shit crazy. Ultimately, however, the movie shares the show’s most lackluster element: incoherency. Though the plot sounds straightforward enough, the film is stuffed with random jabs, from the mocking of traditional Korean characters to scenes so nauseatingly obsessed with vomit that even The Exorcist’s Linda Blair would be envious. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was funny – many scenes are laugh-out-loud hilarious – but it’s all so haphazard that it’s hard to take it even remotely seriously. You’ll laugh, yes, but only with your mouth, not your brains or heart. In other words, it’s all underwhelmingly funny because nothing is really fresh or exciting.
At least Kendrick is clearly having a ball; the Oscar-nominated actress of Up In The Air, Kendrick answers the question, “Can movie stars have fun too?” with a resounding yes. As Beca, the actress constantly juxtaposes the outlandish personalities of her costars with a dry, sarcastic wit that’s subtly hilarious. Wisely, Kendrick embraces this dumb-downed role and, despite all of the film’s ridiculousness, she just goes with it all, turning Beca into the audience’s stand-in. Bridesmaids’ Rebel Wilson is also richly hysterical; with her awkward, squeamish remarks and her effortless ability to make any line absurdly funny (no matter how cliché), Wilson’s Fat Amy steals the show; when she gets blindsided by a Mexican burrito chucked straight at her chest, brace yourselves, Wilson will leave you stiches. If anything, Pitch Perfect makes you wish Wilson had a Bridesmaids of her own to help turn her into an instant comedic superstar – trust me, she’s on her way.
The music, from conventional covers of hits like Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” to ingenious mash-ups (the Bellas’ regional performance of “The Sign” and “Bulletproof” is pretty brilliant), also impresses, keeping the film moving along at a rhythmic pace despite its nearly two hour run time. In particular, the film’s musical centerpiece, a vocal battle among all of Barden’s a cappella groups called the Riff Off, is a funky, toe-tapping delight; I dare you not to smile and groove with Kendrick when she breaks out a sly rendition of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”.
I’m not sure what else to say, maybe it’s best to just leave at this: if you watch the trailer and like what you see, chances are Pitch Perfect will be a solid night out, if not, skip it without hesitation. As for me, I laughed often and got lost in all the exciting music, I just wish the film was a bit more focused and cleaned up. Solid effort, yes, but ultimately nothing special.
Review by Zack Sharf