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(Best sung to “Cups”)

A cappella singers need a team.
It doesn’t work when on your own.
Voices merge, converge, and to new heights they surge
As a chorus of perfect pitch and tone.

Sing along, sing along,
It doesn’t matter what’s the song.
You’re gonna be the coolest nerds
If you remember all the words,
And you sing one for all, just sing along.

MPAA rating: PG-13

Yep, there’s a competition for everything, even a cappella singing, so it was only a matter of time before Hollywood found a way to make a movie out of it. I for one enjoy a cappella, especially modern groups like Pentatonix, and I was actually well familiar with this film’s soundtrack long before I saw it, in particular Anna Kendrick’s rendition of the “Cups” song. I had hoped that Pitch Perfect‘s comedy could match the quality of its music, but that was obviously too high a bar. I came for the music, and ultimately I stayed for the music since Pitch Perfect had little else going for it.

After the Barden Bellas are humiliated at the highest collegiate competition, only Aubrey (Anna Camp) and Chloe (Brittany Snow, whose voice I know from Whisper of the Heart) carry on the mantle of the disgraced singing club and must recruit a winning new team. Enter the rest of the cast through auditions both chuckle-worthy and cringe-worthy. While jokes are made at the few members who fail to stand out, the key characters are well-distinguished, most notably the unabashed “Fat Amy” (Rebel Wilson), who introduces herself as such, and the quietly weird Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), whose barely audible voice makes one wonder why she was even recruited at all. And then there’s Anna Kendrick as Beca, the sensible outsider with musical career aspirations and a good ear for mash-ups. Unsurprisingly, the disparate group must all work together to overcome Aubrey’s control-freak tendencies and Beca’s independence and beat out their favored rivals, the Treblemakers, who aren’t necessarily better, just more exuberant.

There’s not much in the plot that hasn’t been seen before; in fact, the sequence of events in the competition is almost identical to another musical film from the same year, Joyful Noise. The characters are what should set Pitch Perfect apart, and they only half succeed. Quirks and characterization abound, but when the word b*tch is thrown around so much, it’s unfortunate that it fits most of the cast at one point or another. Plus, I found it odd that, instead of the biggest jerk of the film being brought down a peg as is usual, he was actually rewarded and sent away. In addition, I have yet to see an instance in any film where a vomit gag is anything but gross; when will screenwriters realize that throwing up just isn’t funny? That goes for many of the other jokes too, with the key exception of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as the barb-trading a cappella commentators. They were a hoot, even if their criticism of the Bellas didn’t always seem deserved.

I don’t mean to sound totally negative since it’s not as if Pitch Perfect tries to be more than dumb fun; that’s what it is for the most part and excels mainly on the musical side of things, which is the reason the film exists in the first place. Every musical number was entertaining with several being sensational, and it was enjoyable to hear well-blended mash-ups of songs I hear often on the radio and my own iPod. Besides the music, I also loved the movie plugs of Skylar Astin as Jesse, Beca’s Treblemaker would-be boyfriend, who had the most charm of any character and introduced Beca (and maybe a teenage viewer or two) to The Breakfast Club.

As I said before, I watched Pitch Perfect for the music, and that’s the main reason to see it, along with the pretty (but crass) girls singing it. The sometimes quotable dialogue, both sharp and blunt at the same time, may not carry as much humor for me as I’d like, but the film at least did justice to the ear-pleasing appeal of “organized nerd singing.”

Best line: (Gail, one of the commentators) “The Barden Bellas went deep into the archive for that song, John. I remember singing it with my own a cappella group.”
(John) “And what group was that, Gail?”
(Gail) “The Minstrel Cycles, John.”
(John) “Well, that’s an unfortunate name.”


Rank: Honorable Mention


© 2016 S. G. Liput
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And here’s the music video for “Cups” or “When I’m Gone,” directed by Pitch Perfect‘s director Jason Moore; I love long, complex takes, so this is one of my favorite music videos.