I admit when Darcysport told me her kid (a teen boy!) wanted to see Pitch Perfect I looked a little askance. This is a movie that screams GAY!! more than Any Day Now, A Single Man and Frisky Summer 4 put together—and that’s without any actual, expressed gayness anywhere in the film.
But then I realized the incredibly cute Anna Kendrick was in it. And she does this in it. So, Man Card un-revoked.
I had actually taken The Boy and The Flower to see Wreck-It Ralph but it was virtually sold out, so we ended up in this film instead.
Pitch Perfect is part Revenge Of The Nerds (if the nerds were music nerds and their antagonists were also music nerds), part Best in Show and part John Waters. And I guess (per The Flower) part Glee, though without the spontaneous musical-number biz.
The premise is that cranky disaffected wannabe DJ Kendrick is humoring her father by going to college, rather than running off to L.A. to fulfill her dreams, and ends up being recruited by the Bellas, one of the four campus a cappella groups. The Bellas’ arch-rivals are the Treblemakers—which is a seriously odd name for an all-male singing group—to whom they lost the last national championships.
The Bellas are run by a seriously uptight leader (Anna Camp) and her #2 (Brittany Snow) and after their leader tossed her cookies at the finals, can’t get anyone normal or decent to sign up. Instead, they have a slut (Alexis Knapp), the lesbian (Ester Dean), the mumbly (and quite possibly psychotic) Asian (Hana Mae Lee) and Rebel Wilson, as the too-cool-for-school Fat Amy.
Like I said, very “Revenge of the Nerds”. Although, it’s actually much better than RotN, for a variety of reasons (not the least of which is the absence of rape).
You can kind of get a sense of this melange from the trailer, which is one reason I hadn’t put this at the top of my list, but it all works much better than it should. Credit must go heavily to director Jason Moore, and perhaps even more to Kay Cannon for recognizing the hoariness of the premise required lots and lots of jokes to shore up.
A fair amount of credit also has to go to Elizabeth Banks, who is a producer on this film, and provides (with John Michael Higgins, who arranged the Main Street Singers vocals in A Mighty Wind) the inappropriate commentary (a la Fred Willard in Best In Show).
JMH: “What was the name of that group?”
EB: “The Menstrual Cycles, John.”
JMH: “That’s an unfortunate name.”
Also, this movie shares Best In Show’s fascination with a largely unknown examination of a fanatical even bizarre, segment of society. (I say that as someone who loves and, yes, has even sung a cappella stuff.)
This is a tightly edited movie, too, with a good comedic rhythm that the trailer butchers. Rebel Wilson’s delivery, for example, breathes new life into the beaten-to-death (and vaguely offensive) cliché of the ridiculously over-confident fat chick.
And it’s not just Wilson: Alexis Knapp, as the oversexed hottie manages to combine that cliché with a comedic physical awkwardness/inappropriateness that transcends the cookie-cutter formula.
The whole script works this way: You think that the leader of the Belles, Aubrey and Chloe, are going to be your standard issue mean girls, but they’re just stressed, insecure and misguided. Even the putative antagonists in the TrebleMakers are not bad guys, with the exception of their leader, Bumper.
Bumper is played by Adam Devine, channeling Jack Black’s Tenacious D persona uncannily, and as awful as his character is, he’s still got a great deal of charisma (and talent) backing up his douchebaggery.
I’ve covered the Revenge of the Nerds and Best In Show aspects, but the John Waters feel is strong, too. The movie teeters on the edge of camp, Rebel Wilson reminds of Ricki Lake and other heavier-set Waters’ characters. Also, there is a formidable vomit scene. While I’m not a big fan of excretory function-based humor, the combination of, uh, tasteful (?) presentation and over-the-top goofiness sorta worked for me here. (But be warned.)
“Better than it ought to be” is pretty much how I’d sum this up.
The kids liked it, but less than I did, and The Boy less than The Flower.