Sing when you’re winning – Pitch Perfect review

Pitch Perfect – Starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Skylar Astin. Directed by Jason Moore. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

Screenwriter Kay Cannon must have learnt a lot from Tina Fey while working on 30 Rock, because her feature debut Pitch Perfect is clearly a descendant of Mean Girls. Along with 2009’s Easy A, this triumvirate make up the best girl-centric teen flicks of the past decade. To those screaming “Ghost World?!” in protest, know that it remains the sub-genre’s pinnacle, but it’d be inappropriate to lump it alongside these crowd-pleasing comedies. Just as the Fey-scripted Mean Girls defied expectations to present high school politics and sexuality with surprising frankness, Pitch Perfect goes above and beyond the lazy label of “Glee at college” to tell a ribald tale of female friendship. Ghost World still corners the market in scathing ironic detachment, rest assured.

The Glee comparisons are inevitable, of course, when a film about the intense world of collegiate a cappella singing competitions arrives in the wake of that TV show’s success. The association isn’t entirely a minus; Glee positively soared when it surrendered itself to the beat, and Pitch Perfect similarly provides plenty of impeccably composed and frequently buoyant musical numbers. Cannon and director Jason Moore wisely veer away from Glee when it comes to self-righteousness. Glee creator Ryan Murphy is yet to meet a high road his characters haven’t strode with overwhelming smugness, and it’s nice to see a movie in which people act normally, and don’t patronisingly applaud a choir of deaf singers with crocodile tears in their eyes.

Anna Kendrick stars as Beca, a wannabe DJ whose dreams of heading to Los Angeles are dashed by her professor father. Promising to attend college for at least one year, she is reluctantly recruited by the school’s all-girl a cappella team after getting caught singing in the shower by Chloe (Brittany Snow). The Bellas, as they’re called, are keen to save face after a disastrous showdown with bad-boy group The Treblemakers at the finals, during which highly-strung bag of nerves Aubrey (Anna Camp) projectile vomited into the crowd. Beca is just one of the odd ducks brought onto the squad, courtesy of newly-slack entry requirements; also on board is “the best singer in Tasmania, with teeth,” Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), a very softly spoken young lady with some horrifying secrets (Hana Mae Lee), and a variety of weirdos that just barely carry a tune. Do they shed their differences and become a well-oiled musical machine? Will they take mash-up loving Beca’s advice and perform something other than Ace of Base‘s The Sign? Can she follow Chloe and Aubrey’s strict rule to never sleep with any Treblemaker, even if adorable, John Hughes-loving Jesse (Skyler Astin) just signed up? Are you really unsure of the answer to these questions?

Kendrick doesn’t usually play ‘laid back,’ and it’s a nice change of pace for her, even though she’s at her best when slightly uptight and manic. But now that she’s – deservedly – graduated to leading lady status, she has to allow her co-stars the pleasure of upstaging her; an honour that goes to Wilson (making the first good case for her breakout in the United States), Astin, and infuriatingly funny lead Treblemaker Adam DeVine. Producer Elizabeth Banks – who secured the rights to Mickey Rapkin’s non-fiction novel of the same name – and John Michael Higgins are a hoot as sparring a cappella commentators, seemingly lifted straight out of a Christopher Guest movie. Pitch Perfect’s laughter lineage is certainly linked to 30 Rock, and that is of course great news for anyone who loves that show, but wish it had more “riff offs.” In 2011, Bridesmaids launched a thousand annoying “girls are funny too!” articles. Hopefully, Pitch Perfect will be seen as a “well, duh” retort.

3.5/5

Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews here.

Pitch Perfect arrives in Australian cinemas December 6, 2012.

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