At first look, unless you’re a teenage girl, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Pitch Perfect is terrible. Everything about it suggests it’s just another Glee-style teen musical and in a lot of ways it is just that. But somehow, with a sharp script from 30 Rock’s Kay Cannon and shear exuberance, Pitch Perfect is ridiculously fun.
Based on Mickey Rapkin’s novel, the film follows Beca (Anna Kendrick), a Barden University freshman and aspiring DJ who, at the behest of her father, reluctantly enters the cut-throat world of college acapella groups. She joins the Barden Bellas, an all-female group lead by Aubrey (Anna Camp), a prissy alpha who ruined the group’s chances at winning the state finals last year by puking all over the front row.
Once a group of pristine hotties, the Bellas are now a rag tag bunch of underdogs including butch lesbian Cynthia, soft-spoken Lily Rose – who may or may not be an arsenist – and Fat Amy, played with scene-stealing gusto by Rebel Wilson.
Beca and Aubrey clash when hipster Beca tries to inject some spontaneity into the Bellas act, improvising on stage and introducing some hip hop beats that throws Aubrey off her tired old routine.
Of course there’s a rival group in the form of The Treblemakers and of course Beca falls for one of them: Jesse (Skylar Astin), a nice guy who cares about her and just wants to watch Breakfast Club with her. But Beca spurns his advances, partly because she always pushes people away and partly because physically liaising with a Treblemaker is strictly forbidden.
The plot from there is a fairly conventional coming of age tale that you know is going to be settled by a huge sing-off with a shed-load of sentiment but even though you can see it all coming from the opening scenes, the journey is still a whole lot of fun. The cast are all game with Kendrick sporting masses of eye-liner and a too-cool-for-school sneer that hides her usual perky demeanour. Rebel Wilson is the obvious stand-out but there’s also Hana Mae Lee who gets some of the film’s most bizarre lines, you just can’t hear most of them.
Speaking of bizarre, John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks are on hand as the now obligatory odd ball commentators, spouting borderline nonsensical but often hilarious one-liners.
Combining this kind of off-the-wall wordplay and gross out gags with the sugary musical numbers and attempted tearjerker moments occasionally leads to a slightly uneven tone, almost like the filmmakers lost their nerve and had to lighten up the otherwise snarky, sometimes mean film to keep the Gleeks onside.
So it wobbles in tone and is completely predictable but Pitch Perfect remains one of the best comedies of the year. Funny, upbeat, sharp and loaded with cheesy but irresistible musical performances, brought to life by an excellent young cast, this makes this year’s Rock of Ages look as dated as its 80’s setting.