It only takes a quick Google search of Pitch Perfect and Glee typed together in the same sentence to amass hits of ‘comparison’ this and ‘rip-off’ that. In fact, Universal Picture’s Pitch Perfect has even been repeatedly described as being both a better-written and sexier version of the famed musical television series. Regardless of the inevitable comparisons and questions of proverbial thunder-stealing, it should be stated that Pitch Perfect, on its own, is certainly an enjoyable film to watch and is not shy of having strong comedic elements.
As an impressive directorial film debut by experienced Broadway director Jason Moore (Les Misérables, Shrek the Musical), Pitch Perfect is a musical comedy that follows all-girl a capella group, The Barden Bellas, fight to win at the University National’s singing contest. 30 Rock and New Girl comedy writer Kay Cannon provides a fast-paced and comedic script, which, although technically concise and strongly-structured, unfortunately does lack in any fresh originality. Loosely based on Mickey Rapkin’s non-fiction novel of the same name, Pitch Perfect is also notably the second highest grossing musical comedy after School of Rock.
Although it features a large ensemble cast, Pitch Perfect mainly follows the story of aspiring DJ Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick) at her freshmen year at Barden University. Despite Beca’s dreams of moving to Los Angeles to pursue her musical career, she is instead forced by her father (John Benjamin Hickey) to attend the University and consequently is halted of her musical ambitions for the time-being. To add to her frustration, Beca is soon dismayed to discover that freshmen are not allowed to enter the recording booth at the local University radio station that she is interning at. Left to practice her musical talents in the seclusion of her own dormroom, Beca’s father soon chastises her to make more friends, leading her to reluctantly audition for the all-girl a cappella group, The Barden Bellas. Needless to say, independent and creative Beca is far from the perfect match for The Barden Bella’s uptight and controlling resident queen-bee, Aubrey Posen (Anna Camp). Haunted by the embarrassment of projectile vomiting during the previous year’s finals, Aubrey still has faith that the group’s tired and outdated musical arrangement will reign supreme over her former discrepancy, assuming that she is able to keep the vomiting force within her at bay. Inevitably, this lack of musical creativity causes an escalating conflict between Beca and Aubrey, however, it also helps to ground one of the thematic messages of the entire film; teamwork is key.
Fast-paced and lively in its execution, Moore’s energetic direction of Pitch Perfect clearly demonstrates his impressive previous experience in directing famed Broadway musical productions. The script itself is tightly-structured and well-written, however, it is the comedic elements that truly shine through, allowing a somewhat cliché plot involving the benefits of team-work to become entertaining and also provide more than a few laughs. As in most comedies that are set in a University campus environment, there is a romantic sub-plot that pleasantly allows Pitch Perfect to break itself away from simply being a suited and booted all-wharbling singing battle. Executed in somewhat Grease-esque style, Beca begins to form a forbidden bond with rival all-boy a capella group member Jesse Swanson (Skylar Astin), providing another plot layer that cleverly takes neither too much or too little predominance.
The ensemble of character’s featured within the film are interesting to follow, the grounded lead Beca perhaps being the most relatable character to an audience. Although created to be the classic uptight perfectionist that everyone hates, the character Aubrey has a nice character arc that is believable in both its turnaround and execution. In fact, as a group unit, The Barden Bellas could have easily been written to be your typical bunch of lipgloss-smacking fraternity girls, however, it truly does add a nice touch of realism that every member of the group has their own individual and entertaining quirks.
Overall, the acting in Pitch Perfect is well-played, each actor enthusiastically matching the vibrant musical nature of the film. Anna Kendrick plays Beca in a fittingly understated manner, adding a strong likeable nature to the character that allows her to become instantly more humanistic to the audience. As a stand-out comedic performance, fans of hit comedy Bridesmaids will be pleased to see Rebel Wilson taking on the self-titled character of Fat Amy with hilarious guise, providing many of the comedic moments featured within the film.
The music and soundtrack throughout the film mostly consists of contemporary pop music turned a capella, including the likes of Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson and Bruno Mars, to name a few. The musical arrangements featured frequently within the film are entertaining to both listen and watch, each impressively joined together and easily having mass appeal to a modern audience. Some of the more impressive musical highlights demonstrated within the film are the ‘Riff-Off’s’ featured throughout, each usually taking place in some suitably dark and gritty area under the cover of night. Similar in theory to the dance-off’s showcased in the popular Step Up series, the a capella voice battles add a much needed edge that stops Pitch Perfect from being too overly clean and clinical in all its musical interludes.
Although Pitch Perfect is somewhat predictable at times and certainly far from innovative in its ending, it is the witty and unexpected dialogue featured throughout that truly makes this musical comedy an entertaining feature to watch.
Pitch Perfect on DVD and Blu-ray 15 April
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