Musicals have been a part of popular culture and films for decades, having a major part in launching many actors’ careers over the years. Now, in a post “Glee” world, there are shows like “The Sing-Off,” which are embraced by audiences with alternative forms of music being stream-lined into pop culture.
It is in this new era that the film “Pitch Perfect” can be made and become successful. Written by Kay Cannon (“Baby Mama,” “30 Rock”) and based on a novel by Mickey Rapkin, “Pitch Perfect” aims for a specific target audience and not only do the movie’s tunes and storyline ring true for the majority of the time, I was surprised by the writing and comedy used in the film.
While it has many characters that could have easily been shadows of a stereotype, they go off in odd directions and it works for the film. I went in expecting to get one thing and when I left I had a smile on my face and a tune in my mind and I would call that a success.
When unique and somewhat rebellious and adventurously spirited Beca (Anna Kendrick) transfers to Barton University, it is clear what her father (John Benjamin Hickey) wants from her is not what she wants for herself. She would love to work in music and become a famous DJ in Los Angeles. Beca’s father gives her an ultimatum: either truly give the school a chance and join a club or else he won’t help her move after graduation.
So Beca goes in search of something she won’t consider to be lame. This search puts her in the middle of a rivalry between the schools’ two a capella singing groups — the all-male Treble Makers and the all-female the Bellas. The Trebel Makers are the all-stars of the a capella world and seem to progress with current music, while the (very prim) Bellas seem resigned to sing the same classic songs year after year.
When the Bellas are in desperate need of new members to fill their quota needed to compete, some of the oddballs they let into the group are fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), a whispering singer with a secret (Hana Mae Lee), a very butch power singer Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) and a promiscuous flirt named Stacie (Alexis Knapp). This seems OK with one of the group’s leaders, Chloe (Brittany Snow), but not the other one, who seems desperate to hold onto the traditions of the past.
When the “Treble Makers” initiate a new member, Jesse (Skylar Astin), it spells trouble for Beca because it is forbidden for any Bella to become involved with a member of any opposing team. When it comes to competition, the Bellas are falling behind, while the Treble Makers’ suave style and upbeat music are putting them in the lead and impressing the judges. With much protesting from the Bella’s leader Aubrey (Anna Camp), they decide to let Beca use her remixing skills to give them a set that can truly rock the judges at Regionals. Can their new style win them the title or is it too little, too late?
A mixture of “Glee” and “Bring it On,” “Pitch Perfect” takes some of the best aspects of both of those and adds the charming onscreen presence of Anna Kendrick, the self-deprecating humor of Rebel Wilson and tons of cameos roles for side players and funny personalities like Adam Devine (“Workaholics”), John Michael Higgins, Donald Faison (“Scrubs”), Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Elizabeth Banks, who also served as producer on the picture.
Mix all of these with a rocking soundtrack that utilizes music from artists like Kelly Clarkson, Madonna, David Guetta, Dead or Alive, Ace of Base, Toni Basil among others and you have an uplifting and fun film that moves you in your seat, gives you laughs and is an overall fun time at the movies.
The romance between Beca and Jesse is center stage, and it works, but there is one true star of this film and it is Rebel Wilson and her outrageous character Fat Amy, who says and does odd things the majority of the time. It isn’t just this, but also her comfort in her own skin and general positive attitude that helps her make an impact in viewer’s hearts. While she had a standout role in “Bridesmaids,” this film was made for her and lets her run free with comedy and laughs. Just like “Bring it On” impacted pop culture for years after, with people still quoting some of its best lines to even this day, “Pitch Perfect” is filled with some great one-liners that will surely be heard out of the mouths of teenagers for years to come.
One of the best parts of the film is the music and the glorious voices that sing them. I am one that enjoys the sound of a great voice and there is an abundance of them here. While we have heard some of the cast sing in movies, or musicals — like Brittany Snow in “Hairspray” — I was surprised to find out the level of talent that others had. I had no idea Anna Kendrick sang and she is amazing at it.
Another amazing discovery was Skylar Astin, who is one of the best male vocalists I have heard in a long time. His voice is very pure and lends itself quite nicely to the genre of music. The music is the star of the show and these singers are like Rock Gods in this world and they make something that could seem nerdy at first cool and very hip and energetic.
While “Pitch Perfect” isn’t a movie for everyone, it will surely win over some who were dragged to the theater with an excited spouse, child or friend. I brought friends and family to screening I attended and there was a general agreement that everyone at least liked the movie, while others loved it. I have a friend who would rather die then watch “Glee” and she thoroughly enjoyed the movie, so that alone speaks volumes about the ability of the comedy and likeable characters to transcend all levels of interest and leave you feeling good.
Loaded with new takes on old favorites, to hits of right now that are seamlessly mixed together, mashed-up and arranged like you’ve never heard before, there is a song for everyone to sing along with.
“Pitch Perfect” is out in limited released now and will go to wide release this Friday, Oct. 5. It is rated PG-13 for sexual material, language and drug references.
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