61%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)

The music carries Pitch Perfect

By Benjamin Hooton-Bartlett

Jason Moore made his directorial debut with Pitch Perfect, a film more comfortable being a sports flick than it is a romantic comedy. Starring an ensemble cast and set against the backdrop of the fictitious National Collegiate A Capella Championships, the movie tries to and mostly succeeds at entertaining its audience.  Part Animal House, part From Justin to Kelly, and every bit of an underdog story, what works in Pitch Perfect more than makes up for the parts that fail to harmonize.  Heavy on the comedy and light on the romance, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and isn’t afraid to tell a dirty joke. That along with a solid soundtrack is what saves it in the end.

In it Aubrey and Chloe (played by Anna Camp and Brittany Snow), captains of the Barden Bellas, field a new a capella team to compete in National A Capella Championship, losing the previous year’s title in an embarrassing fashion.  Among the recruits is incoming freshman Beca (Anna Kendick) who is an aspiring DJ. Beca, a bit of a recluse and who serves as the star of the movie, meets the outgoing and goodfy Jesse (Skylar Astin) and predictably, he likes her and she isn’t that into him.  The two have trouble avoiding each other though, as they both intern with the college radio station, and both end up in rival a capella groups.  Beca’s reactions seem a bit forced, as does Jesse interest for her.  These stretched lines of dialogue serve the sake of pacing.  The writing greatly desires for the romance to take center stage, but it never quite feels genuine.  It never quite gets to where it wants to go.  These moments are balanced by the other story of the film, the Bellas and their goal of winning the a capella championship.

Sports movie cliches dominate these portions of the movie:  Internal conflicts, the underdog angle, overcoming previous failures, and a montage in order to prop up the romance side of the story, and keep everything moving fluidly.  Where the love story tends to drag, the Bella’s story holds up the film up like a crutch with its sharp dialogue and its energetic performance scenes.  What helps to keep the movie moving is how little it spends on character development.  When they try to push it with Beca and Jesse the story starts to lose momentum; when the singing starts the movie feels awake again.  There seems to be a lot going on the surface of Pitch Perfect—a large cast of wise-talking, college students and a burgeoning love story amidst a boisterous college setting—but what this film boils down into is a simple romantic comedy sandwiched by two pieces of your standard sports-film fare.  The musical performances were engaging; the romance was boring.

One could argue that what lacks in the movie is also what makes it strong.  The simpler the concept the better the execution.  The entire romance arc seems forced, as if the idea of making a movie solely based on competing a capella teams was too niche for an audience to swallow, so a romantic foil for the main female lead had to be introduced.  The movie works well by not taking itself too seriously, until the scenes with Beca and Jesse are awkwardly spliced into the reel.  He pulls, she pushes, tension comes to its apex, and well, you get the picture.  It’s easy to guess where that element of the story is going.  This movie wants you to feel good at the end; and in many ways it succeeds, but not without dragging in the predictable places.  Though there is a small curve ball at the end that stretches out the a capella storyline and allows the romance to breathe a bit, it still falls flat in the end.

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Overall, the performances were good.  Bumper Allen (Adam DeVine, Workaholics), the leader of the Bella’s rival a capella group, the Treblemakers, is never short on insults.  Fans of his work on Workaholics will love him in this, the character from his show and Bumper being pretty much the same person with the same schtick.  The competition’s commentators (Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins) are the comic relief for the singing scenes.  The two have an excellent rapport and really stand out despite their limited time on screen.  There are plenty of ancillary story lines that meander through the story to keep the viewer interested, even if the only reason to watch is just for the music.  One in particular is Rebel Wilson’s character “Fat Amy.” Despite being in a supporting role, Wilson brims over the top and feels integral to the story.  She brings a big chunk of the many, raunchy jokes that are peppered throughout the movie.  Scenes involving Beca’s dad, however, seem a bit tacked on and should’ve been left on the cutting room floor.

The film’s two stories are mostly separated until the conclusion, when they tie together without any significant loose ends.  All the supportive story lines conveniently dissolve into the main arc.  This allows the music to shine their brightest.  From start to finish the songs are the highlight of Pitch Perfect.  Just when the romance threatens to dull the movie, a song comes along to lighten the load.

To sum up Pitch Perfect:  At one point, Jesse boils everything down to a specific formula for how movies work, even explaining the plot of Pitch Perfect in exact detail. But do we care?  Beyond a few yawns when the love story is obligatorily introduced, the story moves enough at the heel of the music to keep the viewer’s attention.

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