“Pitch Perfect” Hits All The Right Notes

Pitch Perfect movie poster (courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Pitch Perfect movie poster (courtesy of Universal Pictures)

While the title may recall thoughts of the TV show “Glee,” “Pitch Perfect” has all of the catchy beats and snazzy dance numbers without the PSA feel.

In fact, it’s established very early on in the film that the similarities between the popular TV show and “Pitch Perfect end with the singing. A cameo from Christopher Mintz-Plasse during an audition scene reveals the following jab, “This isn’t a high school club where you can sing and dance your way through any social issue or confused sexuality.”

The kids from Barden University aren’t here to preach, they’re here to sing some kick ass songs and have a good time. The film is director Jason Moore’s first film project (he’s usually seen on Broadway doing productions like “Avenue Q”). It’s also writer Kay Cannon’s (“30 Rock”) first venture into film writing.

Loosely, based on the non-fiction book by Mickey Rapkin, “Pitch Perfect” feels like a musical version of “Mean Girls.”

The film follows Beca (Anna Kendrick), an antisocial aspiring DJ, through her first year in college. Beca is perfectly content hanging out at the campus radio station or mixing beats alone in her room, but her father has other plans. Upset by her lack of effort to fit in, he offers her a deal. He tells her that if she gives the college thing a real chance and still doesn’t like it by the end of the year, then he will pay for her to move to Los Angeles.

Suddenly Beca does a complete 180 and decides to join an all girl A Capella group, the Barden Bellas. Normally the Bellas wouldn’t give Beca and her alt girl persona a chance, but they are in desperate need for new talent after a very embarrassing incident at nationals. Aubrey (Anna Camp), the overbearing leader of the group, has a bad habit of throwing up when she’s nervous (you can use your imagination to figure out how that scene went) and after “the incident” most of the Bellas leave the group.

Thus, Aubrey and her sidekick, Chloe (Brittany Snow) end up with a new, more unconventional group. The new Bellas include an array of memorable characters, each with her own archetype. Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) is a lesbian with lots of swag and a gambling problem. Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) is the soft-spoken Asian-American anime character. Lily is so quiet none of the other girls can ever hear what she says, which gives her the opportunity to say things like “I ate my twin in the womb.” Stacie (Alexis Knapp) is the resident slut…she says so herself. And finally “Fat Amy” (Rebel Wilson) is the loud-mouthed blonde who created the derogatory nickname as a way of beating others to the punch.

Aubrey takes her girls and tries to whip them into shape for competition season–Aubrey’s main goal in life is to make it back to nationals, redeem herself and beat the Treblemakers (the school’s all male A Capella group and their biggest rival).

The rivalry between the Bellas and the Treblemakers runs so deep that the girls are forbidden from having any kind of relationship with them. Any Bella who is caught having a romantic relationship with a Treblemaker is immediately kicked off the team. It kind of puts Beca in an awkward situation since she has instant chemistry Jesse (Skylar Astin), a young Dane Cook look-alike who plans on becoming a film composer. Their friendship may be forbidden, but we all know exactly how things are going to end up from the moment they set eyes on each other.

Therein lies the only real problem with this film– everything is extremely predictable.  We know that eventually Beca will decide that being part of a team is better than hanging out in her room all day. We know that Aubrey’s iron fisted way of leading the Bellas isn’t going to work out. We know that Jesse and Beca will have a “we beat all the odds” romantic kiss at the end, but somehow that is all irrelevant.

The musical numbers are so wonderfully arranged they make even the most anti-choir viewer want to get up and sing. Really, the mashups in this film are 10 times better than anything you’ve ever seen on “Glee.” With a broad soundtrack ranging from Blackstreet to Bruno Mars, to Ace of Base and The Bangles, there’s a little something for everyone in there.

Kay Cannon’s writing balances out the fuzziness from all the singing perfectly–most of the jokes are snarky and well timed. Although there are a few eye roll inducing lines that the film could have done without. For example, all the characters have a strange obsession with using “aca” in front everything—“we’re going to have aca-babies,” “that’s aca-awesome,” aca-why-don’t-you-shut-the-hell-up.

Aca-annoyingness aside, the film is 113 minutes of fun and laughs that you don’t want to end.

“Pitch Perfect” hits theaters on Sept. 28.

Reach Frances Vega here and follow her on Twitter.

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