Review-Off is like a Sing-Off, but with opinions and critique instead of spontaneous harmonies. If you want to declare a winner, feel free.
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I am hopelessly in love with musicals. I was in the tech crew for over a dozen musicals in high school, know a bunch of musicals backwards and forwards, review musicals on occasion, and god help me, I even watch Glee.
So I was unreasonably excited for Pitch Perfect. That probably colours my judgement a little when I say that it left me pretty underwhelmed.
The film starts off in the middle of a competition, with a performance of ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ from the Treblemakers, the rockstars and “bad boys” of the college a cappella circuit. So far, so good. Following them are their college rivals, the Barden Bellas, a very traditional,
bitchy all-girl group. Disaster (of a pukey nature) strikes, making them the laughing stocks and pariahs of a cappella land.
Fastforward to the next year, and enter Beca (Anna Kendrick). She’s “alternative”, deadpan, and wants to be a DJ, not go to college. Still, her dad forces her to go to Barden University for at least a year. At the same time, we’re introduced to Jesse (Skylar Astin), who is starting at the same college. He’s free-spirited, kind of a babe, and a great singer (Astin originated the role of Georg in Spring Awakening).
It’s pretty clear what happens next. Beca is reluctantly drawn into the Barden Bellas, who are now a ragtag group of girls with varying body shapes and cultural backgrounds – a far cry from the uniformly skinny, white girls the year before. They are led by the only two original Bellas – Chloe (Brittany Snow) and Aubrey (Anna Camp). Jesse auditions for and gets into the Treblemakers after his geeky, Star Wars-loving, magician roommate Benji (Ben Platt) tells him that they’re the coolest group in school.
The a cappella groups are fierce. I’m not American, so I don’t know how realistic this depiction of a capella is, but I will say that I wish I were a part of it, despite some of the cattiness and doucheyness.
I have to admit that I love Anna Kendrick. She’s funny, smart, a great singer and gorgeous, obviously. But I wasn’t a huge fan of Beca’s character. Maybe it was because she struck me as a less snarky, less edgy version of Kristen Stewart’s character in Adventureland, or that we didn’t really see enough of her actually DJing to believe in her as a DJ. Either way: love the actor, don’t particularly care for the character.
The Beca/Jesse train is something I also couldn’t get on board. It was less about chemistry than Word of God – and seemed unnecessary. Why can’t we get a mainstream movie with a girl and a guy being really good friends, without that having to turn into a relationship? They even foreshadow it when Beca calls the end of movies “predictable” – “The guy gets the girl, and that kid sees dead people, and Darth Vader is Luke’s father”. I can’t decide if it’s meant to be intentionally ironic or just lazy, but yeah. No. Stop.
Still, even I’m not so heartless to feel a little tug at my heartstrings when Beca and Jesse make up with ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’. Maybe it’s just because I love The Breakfast Club, but as much as I dislike the preordained romance, that scene was pretty great.
Pitch Perfect’s high points were funnily enough, the musical numbers, and the comedic scenes (anything with Rebel Wilson, Benji the dorky roommate being adorable, the commentating duo played by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins, the not-very-subtle Glee references, and the shower scene with Chloe and Beca.
The low points were, unfortunately, the serious parts. The “I wanna be a musician in LA!” speech, the “you push away anyone who could possibly care about you” speech, the divorce talk, blah blah blah. Those were painful. Not in an emotional way, more just embarrassingly cliche.
All in all, although the film had parts which dragged, and it was more or less predictable, it was enjoyable enough to just take in. Just don’t expect anything special.