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The Bottom Line
Should you see it?
Much more than an a capella You Got Served, Pitch Perfect blends its musical numbers with absurd comedy while taking jabs at the genre it's a part of.
So going into Pitch Perfect, I had low expectations. The marketing and trailer make the film look like another You Got Served or Step Up. The brashness and obnoxious swagger filled my heart with glorious contempt. But, Pitch Perfect is much more. It's not a musical with humor, it's a comedy with music mixed in.
The opening scene is a national competition between two a capella teams from the same school. The boys impress (as usual we learn) and the girls (and this is where I was won over) lose when one of them projectile vomits like little Regan in The Exorcist all over the front row. "Vomit" isn't even the right word. She erupts, like a beautiful, dolled up Vesuvius.
Pitch Perfect is less You Got Served and more Hamlet 2. Yes, there is singing... a lot, but the film is gloriously self-aware of its own ridiculous premise and thus, very funny. Any overwrought singing or butthurt emo sequences are fully redeemed by a great script carried out by some seriously funny women, namely Rebel Wilson and the always likable Anna Kendrick.
Hamlet 2 is a criminally underrated comedy that actually has real things to say about religion. Pitch Perfect is much fluffier. There aren't any issues at stake as there (reportedly) are on Glee and the film says as much. Kendrick plays Beca, a social misfit who's being forced to attend her professor father's college despite her yearning to produce music in L.A. Her dad makes her a deal: Try to fit in for a year and he'll bankroll her trip to SoCal if she can't take it.
So Beca joins the Bellas who are led by the puke girl: overachieving control-freak Aubrey (Anna Camp) and sweet confident Chloe (Brittany Snow), who learns Beca has talent by busting in on her singing in the shower. The Bellas are disgraced by last year's puke incident and Aubrey makes it her mission to redeem her group and herself by making it back to the a capella finals at Lincoln Center.
Tryouts are shown during a fantastic montage that introduces all the new girls: the tough lesbian, the quiet Asian girl, the slut, and "Fat Amy" who Wilson plays with such life and charm, she steals every scene easily. Asked incredulously by Aubrey, "You call yourself 'Fat Amy?'" She replies, "Yeah, so twig bitches like you don't do it behind my back."
Beca's love interest comes in the form of Hamlet 2's very own Skyler Astin. He plays Jesse, a freshman on the rival boys' a capella group. Aubrey has forbidden any Bella to sleep with a rival so Beca and Jesse have a star-crossed lover thing going and it causes conflict later on.
While Glee fans will love the singing and cover songs, the rest of us can enjoy Pitch Perfect's surprising humor. Astin showed in Hamlet 2 he's particularly adept at playing a wholly sarcastic character (he played Laertes as bicurious), and he does the same thing in Pitch Perfect. He adds a level of charm to the performance that rounds out the character, but he's best when he's goofing off.
The stars of the film are the Bellas themselves. Wilson rules as Fat Amy but she's not alone. Ester Dean brings some creepy lesbian humor as Cynthia Rose, "accidentally" pawing the hot girl's ass during one scene. And, the film's biggest surprise, young comedian Hana Mae Lee, she of the kabuki features, gives a subtlely shocking performance as Lilly, the quiet Asian girl who whispers non sequiturs like "I ate my twin in the womb." It's insanely funny.
Director Jason Moore uses close ups when Lilly speaks so the audience is in on the joke while the girls all look at each other complaining they can't hear her. A smart touch for a first time feature filmmaker. Kay Cannon's script, based on Mickey Rapkin's book, is the real secret of Pitch Perfect's success, however. She has a killer sense of humor likely enhanced from her work with Tina Fey on 30 Rock and Baby Mama. She's a writer to watch.
Pitch Perfect adds some credibility in the form of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins who commentate during the competition scenes. The formula is tired, but it works here as the two trade barbs and act repulsed at what the other says. The humor, as a whole, is filthy and fits right in amongst the Bridesmaids and Friends with Kids-type films of the past few years. Women have caught up to the men in the gross-out humor department, and finally, all's right in the world.
See more photos of Anna Kendrick here: