Friday, December 21, 2012


The popularity of shows like Glee, The Voice and X-Factor have made belting out pop hits an unfortunate staple of modern entertainment. Initially, I was hoping that Pitch Perfect, a comedy about college a cappella groups, would skewer the sort of overly sentimental celebration of loserdom that those shows spew out every week, but instead it's right in there with them.  This would be trite and overwrought in the wrong hands, but it's handled in such a fresh and funny way it's easy to just go with it.

When the all girl a cappella group, The Bellas, lose some key members at graduation, returning songbirds Chloe (Brittany Snow) and Aubrey (Anna Camp), have to find some new members to get the team competition-ready in time for this year's regionals (It's ALWAYS regionals with these people!) where they were disgraced the previous year.  The problem is, no 'acceptable' people want to audition for an a cappella group....especially one for girls.  You see, at Barden University the male a cappella singers are gods.  It's like an alternate universe where The Backstreet Boys are The Beatles.  In desperation, The Bellas decide to audition and select some of the outsiders that show interest.  Topping the list (and stealing the movie) is Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson).  Everything that comes out of her mouth is hilarious! This is the star-making role that justifies her recent ubiquity.

Meanwhile, Beca (Anna Kendrick) is a freshman who really wants to go to school in Los Angeles, but she's stuck at Barden, where her father is a professor, working at the campus radio station.  Luckily for her, the scenery is good with her super hot senior supervisor and an apple-cheeked crooner Jesse (Skylar Astin), her co-worker who has a song in his heart for her.  What Beca really wants is to be a DJ, and she's always mixing up beats on her laptop but, in a funny/creepy shower scene, we also find out that she can sing.  Once Chloe learns this she pounces and eventually Beca is a Bella.  From the start she clashes with queen Bella, Aubrey, who wants to stick to the same routines they have done year after year.  The other girls mostly agree that they need to freshen up their sound, but none are brave enough to speak up.  And one, the scene-stealing Hana Mae Lee, can't.  We'll just ignore the fact that their idea of edgy is replacing 1993's 'I Saw The Sign' with 1996's 'No Diggity'.

Director Jason Moore (Broadway's Avenue Q), in his motion picture debut, seems to be going for Bring It On  meets Glee to the point of taking the plot from the former and the mash-ups from the latter.  The fun of the movie however isn't the music, which is cheesy at worst and nostalgically catchy at best.  It's also not the plot which leaves you with more questions than answers.  (Shouldn't they have a faculty coach? Would they even be allowed to do the same routine twice? How did a girl who barely speaks above a whisper make the team?) No, the heart of the movie is the journey the girls take together and the formation of unlikely friendships.  The film manages to embrace everyone's differences in a way that feels organic and not forced.  If you ignore the unlikely plot and just enjoy the plucky spirit of the film it will be the most fun you'll have at the movies this fall.

                                                    8/10  Treble clefs ********

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