Director: Jason Moore.
Script: Kay Cannon.
Based on: Mickey Rapkin’s book.
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow.
Pitch Perfect tells the story of two college singing groups from Barden University which desperately strive to win the national competition of a cappella performances. The male band, led by misogynistic and self-absorbed Bumper (Adam DeVine), has harvested nothing but triumphs, especially since the all-females group still hold on to their conservative repertoire. But with new-arrival Beca (Anna Kendrick) and a group of quirky misfits, they might be in for a little surprise.
The film is a backstage musical with modern tunes, presenting the old tale of a bunch of artists trying to put on a show. But although the comedic aspect of the film is sometimes delicious –and many times incredibly silly- the movie falls short in handling the numerous storylines.
Beca is the most developed character and is quickly pitched as the peculiar protagonist of the tale. She is presented as the odd girl who easily becomes a threat to the Barden Bellas’ traditionalism, embodied in the antagonistic figure of Aubrey (Anna Camp). But Beca’s alternative nature is quite doubtful. She is presented as a ‘weirdo’ who creates remixes of highly popular songs, and the only sign that she might be unconventional is posed through her less than polished getup. But by throwing names like ‘David Guetta’, listening to dubstep and knowing by heart the lyrics to Miley Cyrus’ songs, she makes her façade of originality crumble.
Kendrick’s delivery and the script itself –take for example the numerous repetitions of “Are you serious?” and its variations- are flawed, a fact that doesn’t help making Beca more believable or likeable. Kendrick is a nice vocal performer, but she’s an utterly implausible strange girl, since her character is more in touch with mainstream culture than her peers.
Another weak point of the film is the undeveloped relationships between the characters. Beca’s strained relationship with her father due to his divorce from her mother is succinctly explained, but the tension isn’t truly resolved, even when she has a sudden change of heart that allows her to let people inside her world. There’s no big revelation or redeeming action that makes the conservative father recognize his daughter’s talent after pushing her to join the Bellas –a baffling action, since he doesn’t even witness her performances-, and thus the storyline of their wrenched bond is abandoned completely.
When it comes to the main romantic relationship the treatment is equally blunt and insufficient. Jesse (Skylar Astin) falls for Beca at what appears to be first sight, the girl is forbidden to get involved with him for being part of the rival a cappella group by Aubrey, and she briefly shows interest in the DJ of the Barden Radio Station; but none of these potentially problematic situations are truly developed, and Beca ends up with Jesse like we knew she would from the start, with herself being the only genuine and temporal obstacle to their happy ending.
The friendships also seem rushed and forced, especially when it comes to characters that appear briefly –Aubrey even quips about two of the girls being seemingly absent throughout the year-, have improper behaviors which cause unresolved tensions –the lesbian character presented as somewhat predatory-, or simply odd dynamics which are never developed – like the peculiar and strained friendship between Aubrey and Chloe (Brittany Snow). The girls seem to become friends out of nowhere, and their friendship blossoms as abruptly as their singing abilities.
When it comes to the characters’ individuality little is known about each of them and even the reasons behind their interest in the failed a cappella group remain a mystery. Most of them are reduced to a single trait which is used for comedic value: over-sexuality, a weak voice, homosexuality, etc.
Visually the film is unimpressive. It bears a striking similarity to the configuration of Disney live-action musicals, as well as TV shows like Glee, a fact that is quickly dispelled though the use of dark comedy and unexpected turns –such as Aubrey vomiting from the stage at the beginning of the movie.
Moments like the Riff-off also bear a peculiar resemblance to the visual structure of dancicals, with two opposed groups showing off their talent whilst the camera gets in the middle of the arena, submerging the audience inside the action.
However, the film does triumphs in its comedic exertions, particularly those of Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson). Some of her one-liners have already turned into classics, and her eccentric delivery turns almost every word into comedic gold.
In the end, the movie is the quite enjoyable and conventional tale of a not-so-odd girl who learns to accept the institutions she fervently opposed –and it’s in her former hostility to the idea of college or social exchange where her true marginality resides- through the taming nature of love and friendship. The film tries to tell too many stories and fails, but makes amends for its sloppiness with delightful absurdity.
It might not be the best of musicals, but it will certainly bring a smile or two as it connects succesfully with a generation with multiple references which demands turning old and classic creations into newer, fresher and easily consumable products.
Final verdict: guilty pleasure.