Writer: Elaine Ewe
Overall: 4.0 Out of 5
Cast: 4.5 Out of 5
Plot: 3.5 Out of 5
Effects: 0.0 Out of 5
Cinematography: 4.5 Out of 5
Watch this if you liked: "Glee"
Set in fictional Barden College, "Pitch Perfect" centres on the two main a capella groups there, the all-boys Treblemakers led by Bumper (Adam DeVine) and the all-girls The Bellas, led by Aubrey (Anna Camp). After a humiliating loss in the a capella finals, Aubrey and her best friend, Chloe (Brittany Snow), are left to pick up the pieces. Beca (Anna Kendrick), a freshman who has no interest in being at Barden College, is cajoled into joining The Bellas, which she eventually relents in order to get her father to send her to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of producing music. Joining along with Beca is a host of misfits such as the blunt Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), the horny Stacie (Alexis Knapp), the quiet Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) and the tomboyish Cynthia-Rose (Ester Dean) and together, they try their best to make it into the a capella finals at Lincoln Centre.
Based on the synopsis and the premise of the film, it is hard not to compare Ryan Murphy's hit television series "Glee" with "Pitch Perfect" or even NBC's "Smash" with "Pitch Perfect". Despite their different settings, the shows revolve around a ragtag group of individuals who are involved in singing and stage performances. To put it short, it is what "Glee" would have been if it had been conceived as a film.
Nevertheless, it is not (the concert film, "Glee: The 3D Concert Movie" does not count), and that is where the similarities end. As Christopher Mintz-Plasse's Tommy puts it, anyone who is in it to sort out their relationships, sexuality and social issues; this is not the place to be. Just like the one it threw at "Glee", "Pitch Perfect" never lets up on the punches, which is why the film is such a delight to watch despite the cliched plot.
First things first, are the songs. The tunes are catchy, with covers of "Since U Been Gone" and the mash-ups like "Just the Way You Are (Amazing)/Just a Dream" exciting but the execution leaves a little to be desired. This is because in some of the scenes, it looks like the cast are lip-synching, such as in the opening scene of "Don't Stop the Music", but the fact that the lip-synching is obvious leaves a bad taste in the mouth as it seems like editing crew assumes that viewers are too dumb to notice. Otherwise, the performances have nuance, making a future a capella trend seem possible, like what "Glee" did for musicals.
The plot may be cliched, but the writing is sharp, and cast easily proves that with good acting and writing, even the over milked story about underdogs is salvageable. "Pitch Perfect" does itself a favour by avoiding the heavy melodrama that accompanies college flicks. Loosely based on the non-fiction novel of the same name by Mickey Rapkin, Kay Cannon writes a screenplay that is satirical and self-reflexive. For example, after a particularly heated conflict, Beca remarks that they do not know anything about each other and prompts them to reveal something about themselves that nobody knows as a result. What ensues is a hilarious exchange that only confirms what the viewers have already guessed such as Stacie's revelation that she always has sex. Anna Kendrick ("End of Watch") is refreshing to watch as Beca. She is apathetic without being aloof and whip-smart without being a know-it-all. As she puts it, she "doesn't know why she is pushing people away", which is probably one of the most reasonable justifications for reluctant protagonists as opposed to the usual heroine-with-a-chip-on-her-shoulder-due-to-her-parents'-neglect.
Make no mistake, all the other characters that are not Beca, are Mary Sues or Gary Stus. As "Pitch Perfect" plays out, you can almost see (metaphorically, of course) the checklist of college stereotypes that they had to adhere to. However, the chemistry between characters, such as Skylar Astin's Jesse and Beca, Fat Amy and everyone else, just sizzles onscreen. Both Astin and Wilson easily take the spotlight in the film, especially Wilson, as she imparts her wit about just everything in the film such as telling Aubrey that she calls herself Fat Amy so that "skinny bitches like you can't do it behind my back", and "in such a large group of people as this, one of them is bound to be a lesbian". It is not so much that she is poking fun at a group of individuals as opposed to pointing out a genre convention.
Ultimately, Jason Moore's "Pitch Perfect" is no derivative of "Glee", "Smash" or "Nashville", but a whole new barrel of surprises if you can forgive the plot. The dialogue is comedy gold, the musical numbers are flashy, the relatively rookie cast are definitely no rookies, given their stellar performances and sparkling chemistry. What "Pitch Perfect" is is one of the feel-good films of the year.
Cinema Online, 08 November 2012