“Pitch Perfect” is what “Glee” would be like, if “Glee” wasn’t so in your face about ‘issues’ and didn’t mistake tokenist diversity for good characterisation. Of course, “Pitch Perfect” has a suitably diverse cast of characters, it just doesn’t care about ramming it down your throat and saying “See? SEE?” before bursting into hysterical tears and running off melodramatically in the hope you’ll follow it and sing a heartfelt and suspiciously well-orchestrated off the cuff cover of some recent chart hit.
No, what “Pitch Perfect” does is tell the story of a disaffected student who is coerced by her father into giving college a go instead of moving to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of being a music producer. The deal is simple: give college life a try, including joining and sticking with one of the many clubs on campus, for a year. If she still wants to quit and move to LA after that, then he will help her. Thanks to a chance (and strange) encounter in the showers, our hero Beca is cajoled into auditioning for one of the (bafflingly numerous) a capella singing groups on campus and eventually joins the Barden Bellas, a ragtag band of misfits led by a disgraced finalist from the previous year’s national competition.
What separates “Pitch Perfect” from its agenda-driven TV counterpart is a rich vein of snarky, unexpected humour which punctures any tendency towards sentimentality or gratuitous tokenism. The result is a frothy cocktail of singing and sisterhood but with a rebellious kick, much like 2000’s cheerleading comedy “Bring It On”.
Anna Kendrick manages the tricky balancing act of being both surly and appealing as our leading lady while the film benefits enormously from the unpredictability of Rebel Wilson as “Fat Amy”, whose ad-libbing is responsible for many of the film’s best lines. Skylar Astin makes a charismatic and appealing romantic interest for Beca but their romance is not the central core of the film and it’s all the better for it. Adam DeVine rounds out the main cast as Bumper Allen, the arrogant leader of the Bella’s all-male rivals. The films only misstep is when Bumper abruptly disappears from the story before the final showdown and therefore misses out on his much-needed comeuppance or epiphany. Maybe they’re saving that for the sequel. Special mention has to be made of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as hilariously freewheeling stream-of-consciousness commentators at the various A Capella competitions. Both are clearly having a hoot ad-libbing their lines and riffing off each other, and their fun is contagious.
“Pitch Perfect” is a breezy, sassy musical comedy with glossily mounted musical numbers and just the right amount of gross-out zany humour to broaden its appeal without losing its core audience.