Review: PITCH PERFECT Doesn't Live Up To Its Name, But Comes Close

Jason Gorber, Featured Critic
When Glee first hit the airwaves, I had high hopes. Here was something that seemed genuinely interesting, a self-aware, self-effacing look at High School arts nerds and their proclivity for all things a capella. Much like the pilot show for Lost, things quickly went downhill, and any of the charm or wit was quickly bled out once the filmmakers essentially blew all their good ideas with their first chapter.

There would be no Pitch Perfect if there was no Glee, and I guess that's something we can be thankful to that show for. Sure, PP is a derivative, predictable, silly thing, but it's also just a tiny bit rebellious, its charms just a little bit edgy making for more than a cookie cutter post-tween underdogs-make-good film.

Other than a slew of Brady Bunch episodes, the other clear precursor to this film is either the cheerleading Bring it On series of films, or the criminally underappreciated Drumline. While the pom-pomposity of the Bring it series left me cold, Drumline is epically fun, it's thumping musical sequences prime home theatre show off material. Sure, the story line is as transparent as an acrylic drum head, but when the music heats up (played exceptionally well by a slew of award winning musicians) it's a wonderous thing.

Like a mantra, it must be said again: Pitch Perfect is no Drumline. Sure, it comes close, it's got some moments of risqué comedy and some decent musical bits, but it doesn't come anywhere near being as epic as that other syncopated masterpiece. PP is a cover version of a cover version, and marks should certainly be deducted for that.

Still, not being able to live up to the Lawrence of Arabia of marching band mash-up movies can't be the only metric we just PP on. In its favour, Pitch joins the fine Ghost Gradution in worshiping at the altar of John Hughes. It may be a cheap parlour trick to literally play (several times!) the ending of the Breakfast Club in order to elicit a shared audience reaction, but darn it all if it wasn't effective. Hell, even the well telegraphed performance of "Don't You Forget About Me" is almost earned, a sweeping chorus of "na...na na na na..." echoing throughout the theatre to rapt on-screen applause.

The musical performances are...decent, if more than a little preposterous. One of the things that early episodes of Glee did well was to have the a capella moments nearing believability, actually letting the chorus of voices do the main work. When we get little more than an over produced, auto-tune mess, it's even harder to take the preposterous conceit seriously. When the singers occasionally break out in their "naked" form,

Then again, we're not supposed to take this seriously, are we? While Anna Kendrick can show up with "OscarTM nominated" after her name on the poster, the biggest stretch is believing her as a freshman in college. Even her dextrous coaxing of Traktor DJ software on her shiny new Macbook can't make me buy into storyline overmuch, and don't get me started on her job shelving vinyl at the college radio station (I never had help doing that, especially from someone that looks like Anna Kendrick!)

Luckily, Anna and the rest of the cast can sing, well enough at least for the purposes of the film, and even if the majority of "new" material went over my very old head, you kind of got the sense of what the kids were listening to all those months ago when the script was churned out by some automatic algorithm.

The rest of the ensemble do a fair enough job, mixing broadway talents like Skylar Astin along with (self-monikered) fat talents like Rebel Wilson. Brittany Snow continues to carry the torch from her days on the (unbelievably fantastic) Hairspray film, and Anna Camp manages to live up to her last name at the bitchy, vomity blonde.

Under the gloss and rock video level of drama, there's a quite enjoyable little movie here. Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins inject a bit of Christopher Guest-style commentary, and the film does have a few genuinely surprising moments. The side characters are rich enough, including a great performance by Hana Mae Lee who gives Wilson a run for her money, delivered in a meek, near taciturn turn.

While the film plays as briskly and predictably as you'd expect, it's still a heap of fun in the end. While never quite scaling the transcended heights of the likes of the sublime Drumline, Pitch Perfect proves to be both catchy and fun.
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