VOD film review: Pitch Perfect
James R | On 14, Sep 2013
Director: Jason Moore
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Sklar Astin, Anna Camp, Hana Mae Lee
“Any interest in joining our a cappella group?” “Oh, right, this is like, a thing now.” That’s Beca (Kendrick) when she joins Barden University, a place where students do something that’s a lot like Glee – but totally not like Glee. Reluctantly signing up to the local all-girls troupe, she and a group of youngsters sing popular songs and learn things about themselves. You know, like Glee – but totally not like Glee.
“If you think you can sing or dance your way through social issues, you’ve come to the wrong place,” declares Christopher Mintz-Plasse at auditions. He’s not really telling the truth but, while the premise sounds like it was cooked up by a money-hungry studio, the producers did a smart thing in hiring Kay Cannon for scribing duties. A writer for New Girl and 30 Rock, she takes the idea and fills the gap between clichés with great jokes.
“You call yourself Fat Amy?” Chloe (Snow) asks Fat Amy (Wilson). “Yeah,” she replies. “So twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back.” It’s a typical in-your-face performance from Rebel Wilson, but director Jason Moore makes sure her style blends right in to the ensemble, which manages to cover every perceived stereotype of the teen movie genre, right down to – the film’s secret weapon – the depraved Lilly, who speaks really, really quietly.
It’s a simple gag but it works thanks to Hanna Mae Lee’s deadpan delivery. In fact, the whole cast are in tune. In the front row of the choir? A fantastic Anna Kendrick. After stealing the show in Up in the Air and 50/50, it’s great to see her given the chance to charm your vocal chords off in a lead role.
And boy, what vocal chords. Pitch Perfect lives and dies by its soundtrack – and it doesn’t hit a bum note. The songs are all recent chart hits, which adds to the corporate cash-grab feel, but Moore’s glossy sheen looks great and Ed Boyer’s vocal arrangements introduce some creative remixes to the playlist. The two collide in a cracking central set-piece: a “riff-off”, which sees bands battling to see who can out-sing each other in a car park.
Can Beca learn to stop being so self-centred and work as a team? Will she and rival singer Jesse (Skylar Astin) get it on? Will the Barden Bellas win the national tournament?
The answer may be no surprise – everything is spelled out by Beca’s lecturing father, a subplot that could be removed from the whole movie – but Cannon’s script is surprisingly subversive where it counts: the funny bone. “Aca-scuse me?” the girls say to each other in a way that sounds like they want to become a cult hit. It’s not quite Mean Girls: The Musical, but it’s pretty darn close. Throw in a lovely John Hughes reference and Pitch Perfect is a catchy number that will get your sides splitting and vocal chords humming. It’s a lot like Glee – but totally not like Glee. Why? Because it’s better. Aca-believe it.