28 December 2012


While I'm playing catch-up, I might as well cover Pitch Perfect. I know I cover spurious marketing quite a lot in my reviews, but this one has been lumbered with a critical pull-quote that's almost as dumb as The Adjustment Bureau's "Bourne Meets Inception". Because Pitch Perfect isn't "Ted meets Bridesmaids", or at least no more than its tenuous connection of having gross-out humour and female characters- instead, it's a solid entry into the recent resurgence of the teen movie genre.

It's also a vehicle for the wonderful Anna Kendrick, who plays Beca, a young woman whose life's ambition is to go to LA and produce music. Her dad, a lecturer at Barden University, gets her enrolled cheaply, and offers to help with this ambition, on the proviso that she tries the college for a year to see if it changes her mind. By way of "getting involved", she's press-ganged into an all-female a capella singing group called the Bellas, who are locked in a fierce rivalry with mouth-music sensations, the Treble Makers.

It's in the process of Beca modernising the Bellas' output that Pitch Perfect seems a little out of its time. "There's nothing on this list from this century," she says, of the group's tired-and-tested set list. I'm not sure that Beca's ear-opening effect on young women the same age as her is entirely realistic, but then the film does go some way to showing the insular atmosphere of competitive a capella. Writer Kay Cannon chooses to align it with the way dodgeball is portrayed in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story- the characters take it seriously, but the film doesn't, and lets the audience in on the more ridiculous aspects.

Another part of the Dodgeball comparison comes from the presence of snarky commentators, played by John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks. They get tonnes of funny and quotable lines, but their presence immediately begs the question of who they're commentating for, and more importantly, why the competition employs people to talk during the songs. It's this second kind of misstep that's more troubling, with questionable motivations and plot developments coming thick and fast. It undermines a great comedy, and it's content to be little more than fun and fluffy, albeit with more than its share of gross-out jokes.

Not that this review should seem overly negative, because I still had a lot of fun watching this. The music is nicely arranged, and the performances themselves are very well choreographed. Kendrick is, as ever, one of my favourite young actresses, and she's backed by a strong cast, including Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp and Brittany Snow. Of the Bella characters, Wilson is the most surprising- her Fat Amy gets all of the best lines, rather than being a mean-spirited one joke character.

The reason this does sound like a negative review, however, is because the problems distracted me enough while I was watching it to show that they really do overwhelm the good stuff. While Fat Amy becomes the most watchable and enjoyable character, the other Bellas are all defined by basic characteristics. There was the potential here for something as good as Mean Girls, still arguably the definitive teen movie of the last decade. In realising that the Bellas' "bikini-ready" image isn't provocative when juxtaposed with their boring old setlist, the group diversifies, but only by bringing in stereotypes of race, gender and sexuality. The film even chickens out of the broiling tension with the homogenised Treble Makers by contriving an ending where everybody's a winner for taking part.

Pitch Perfect is plenty of fun if you're able to overlook all of the notes that it misses, but it left me with a feeling of "close, but no cigar." The script holds a lot of quotable lines, including a funny a capella jargon that may well become popular with its target audience, ("A ca-scuse me?") and the cast is on top form, especially when Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson take the mic, but it doesn't quite pull off the teen movie tour de force that it promises in its first act. It's Pitch Alright, to be sure, but the disappointing aspects ring out louder than anything else.

Pitch Perfect is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen
Pitch Perfect, why not share your comments below? And if we're honest, it's alright to go and look at some a capella groups on YouTube after watching this one. A capella is cool, or something.
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch. 

1 comment:

Meow Opre said...

I soooooo love this movie & especially the pitch perfect songs! Old and new songs with a twist on their renditions. Totally aca-awesome! :) Utkarsh is my crush <3