This image released by Universal Pictures shows Rebel Wilson portraying Fat Amy, left, and Anna Camp portraying Aubrey in a scene from their film "Pitch Perfect." (AP Photo/Universal Pictures, Peter Iovino)
3 out of 4 stars
It should be made clear up front that the largely positive review for this film is not due to its quality (which is still pretty good) but more because it is deftly aware of its target audience. This is a movie with a very specific demographic and on that level -- it does a great job. It's entertaining, engaging and strongly appeals to women that dig singing/reality TV shows, "Glee" or belt it out full-tilt themselves while driving in their car.
The best facet of "Pitch Perfect" is that it is a musical that eschews that genre's deadliest trapping (people breaking into song for no reason whatsoever) while celebrating amateur team efforts. The characters in this film aren't looking for a record contract; they do it for the love of song -- and the fierce competition. It's a sports uplift flick minus a ball and the physical contact.
Lending the production immediate legitimacy is the presence of the Oscar-nominated Anna Kendrick ("Up in the Air") as lead character Beca. Thus far relegated to mostly goody-two-shoes and/or uptight personas, Kendrick lets her hair down here as the rebel with a cause; a semi-bad girl that hates being pegged or compartmented. Beca certainly appreciates your acceptance but only on her terms and has no problem challenging or tossing you off into the wind if your sincerity is the least bit suspect.
Though under pressure from her professor father to at least give college a try, Beca really wants to go to L.A. and become a mash-up DJ. Not long after her dad sweetens the ante between them, Beca accepts an offer made by Chloe (Brittany Snow) and Aubrey (Anna Camp): the two remaining members of their school's sole all-girl a cappella group. They're the only two left because of a major blunder committed by Aubrey at the previous year's championship that has regulated them to a campus joke.
A control freak of the highest order, Aubrey only wants other tall, blonde, WASP types with size 0 figures to join the group but quickly comes to the realization she's living a pipe dream. In addition to Beca, there are a couple plain-Jane sorts, a frisky Amazon fond of groping herself, a sexually ambiguous black girl, a barely audible Asian introvert and the ample, wisecracking Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson). Although all of the new additions can sing like nobody's business, they lack discipline, are collectively wanting with their dance moves and all harbor some degree of resentment regarding Aubrey's rigidly autocratic, unyielding leadership.
In adapting Mickey Rapkin's book, longtime "30 Rock" writer/producer Kay Cannon top-loads her script with acerbic barbs and catfights that would be right at home with her frequent collaborator Tina Fey's "Mean Girls."
Like Fey, Cannon's keen observational humor isn't overtly raunchy, catty or vicious mostly because it's semi-cloaked in intellectual subterfuge. As the lead, Kendrick is afforded the lion's share of these pearls but it is Wilson who makes the most of them. A former Australian stand-up comic and TV regular who also had a bit part in "Bridesmaids," Wilson steals every scene in which she appears and needs her own starring vehicle, pronto. Kendrick provides the movie its heart but Wilson gives it all of its soul.
Also making the most of their handful of scenes as commentators, John Michael Higgins and co-producer Elizabeth Banks are even more cunningly risque with their high-brow innuendo and biting satire.
The movie loses a full star due to first-time feature director Jason Moore's propensity to let scenes go on a little too long and taking what should have been an hour and a half at the outside and unnecessarily stretching it into a belabored 112 minutes. To the filmmakers' credit, they deliver a surprise false first-ending and follow it up with a second that ties up a lot of loose plot threads.
Is "Pitch Perfect" a total chick flick? Without a doubt and unashamedly, yes. Is it suitable for pre-teens? Not even. As a date movie ... it works better than most. As much as the filmmakers cater to the ladies, they also include a couple of visual nuggets most of the gents will certainly appreciate.
And you can dance to it. (Universal)