Remember when Glee was actually entertaining, back before all the preaching and embarrassing original songs and cast members recruited via reality TV? If you miss those halcyon days, then Pitch Perfect should fill the void nicely. Even if you’re not a particular fan of singing competitions, this energetic comedy about warring college a cappella groups, based on a nonfiction book of the same title, is impossible not to like.
The film stars Anna Kendrick (50/50, Up in the Air) as Beca, a freshman tagged in collegespeak as “alternative” due to a variety of tattoos and spiky earrings. Beca is rebelling against her professor father’s desire that she earn a (free) college degree at Barden University, where he teaches. She sees school as a waste of time. She wants to be a DJ and remix just about every song she hears — I’m particularly fond of her version of The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). To be fair, she’s got the ear and imagination for the profession. But Dad says no until she at least gives college life a try.
Reluctantly seeking an activity to prove she’s attempting to fit in, Beca ends up auditioning for the prissy Bellas, one of the school’s a cappella groups with an unfortunate past involving public projectile vomiting. Her tryout is inspiring, but she doesn’t exactly mesh with the girly leaders (Brittany Snow and Anna Camp). Still, she can sing, and the Bellas are desperate to beat their mortal enemies, the cocky Treblemakers, a boys’ group that takes winning as its prerogative. The Treblemakers have a knack for choosing the perfect popular songs to perform in competition; they even have one guy who can rap, which gives them an edge and enables them to pull off fresh, daring mixes involving Flo Rida’s version of Right Round. The Bellas, on the other hand, dress like flight attendants circa 1970 and think singing Turn the Beat Around is the height of daring.
You know by the end that Beca will persuade the Bellas to adapt their songlist to suit her talents, but even so, getting to that point is a lot of fun, due largely to Rebel Wilson (Bachelorette) as Fat Amy (her name for herself, employed as a method of beating skinny mean girls to the punch). Wilson gets all the good lines and makes the most of them, and frequent sidekick Kendrick — a Twilight veteran nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as George Clooney’s uptight young colleague in Up in the Air — steps into the leading lady role with good humor and grace. But the real highlights of the film are the upbeat musical numbers, well choreographed and remixed just the way Beca would like them. If you’re not grinning by the end of this light, funny crowd-pleaser, consider yourself tone deaf.
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Skylar Astin, Elizabeth Banks.
Director: Jason Moore.
Screenwriter: Kay Cannon. Based on the book by Mickey Rapkin.
Producers: Elizabeth Banks, Paul Brooks, Max Handelman.
A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 112 minutes. Sexual material, language, drug references. Playing at area theaters.