Directed by: Jason Moore
Premise: A college student (Anna Kendrick) joins an all-female a capella singing troupe and the group competes against its all-male rival.
What Works: Pitch Perfect is likable because of its performances. The film is led by Anna Kendrick and she is an affable screen presence in part because she is very funny but especially because she projects an image of awareness and intelligence that makes her accessible. The film also has a strong supporting performance by Brittany Snow as the leader of the singing group and Snow does a fine job of making her character stubborn and snobby enough so that she is antagonistic but not so much that the audience wishes that the main character would just quit the group. However, the star of Pitch Perfect is Rebel Wilson as one of the singing group’s new recruits. Like Kendrick, Wilson also exudes a certain amount of self-awareness and sarcasm and her deadpan delivery often makes for the film’s better moments. Wilson has a cherubic figure and that becomes fodder for humor but in a way that is not mean spirited and is often done most successfully by Wilson herself. Between the three main female roles, Pitch Perfect is often smart and funny, and the film is at its best when it is trying to be subversive or treading on parody as it sends up popular music and gender roles and lampoons the musical genre.
What Doesn’t: Pitch Perfect is a very uneven film. The picture has a lot of clashing forms of humor from sarcasm and parody to broad physical comedy. The mix does not always work and certain scenes come off as out of place, such as the scenes of Snow’s character vomiting. What is more troublesome for Pitch Perfect is that it is a musical whose music isn’t very good. The musical performances are often obnoxious covers of contemporary pop music and the competition sequences are absurd. These scenes are frequently sloppy as the sound is sometimes unsynchronized with the image. Most notable is the final performance, which is supposed to be a capella, meaning there is musical accompaniment, but the soundtrack has a baseline and other effects. The song choices also hurt the film by ruining its credibility. The filmmakers establish Kendrick’s character as someone with edgy and experimental musical tastes but then relegate her to singing mainstream Top-40 hits. This movie was apparently made by people who think Salt-n-Pepa and David Guetta are cutting edge. Pitch Perfect also has a lot of story problems. The Treblemakers, who are the male opponents of the all-female group, are not much of an antagonist. The film never establishes a reason for the tension between the two groups and the male singers come across as pathetic jerks but nothing more. The other story problem for Pitch Perfect is that it is yet another movie about college that has nothing to do with the realities of higher education. Like many movies taking place on college campuses, the university is depicted as a high school. The audience is led to believe that the a capella music scene is an important part of campus social life but watching how insufferable many of these characters are it is hard to believe that anyone would take them seriously. The filmmakers’ take on the college experience, much like their take on music, is incoherent and stupid.
Bottom Line: Pitch Perfect is a passable movie but just barely. Viewers who like television shows like The Voice and Glee will probably get something out of it but this film is closest to the absurdity of Sister Act 2.
Episode: #413 (November 4, 2012)