Watch out Emma Stone, there’s a new Tomboy on the block and she’s making everyone forget she was ever in a Twilight movie.
I was planning on seeing Hotel Transylvania today seeing as it will be topping this weekend’s box office receipts, but decided to see Pitch Perfect instead. I am now positive that I made the right decision, and the result was the most surprising movie I’ve seen in some time. I’d seen some amusing promotional material for the movie and heard generally positive reviews, but on the surface there wasn’t much about Pitch Perfect to suggest that I would like it. The Accapella group theme has been so trampled by Glee over the past few years that the subject has been poisoned in my mind. Against all odds though, Pitch Perfect overcomes its occasional dips into cliche-ness with a snappy script, likable characters and an overall sense of fun that can’t help but infect the audience.
I’m not even going to bother with the plot, as it proceeds exactly how you’d expect it to. Instead, I’ll dive into what really makes the movie great, and that is the characters. At the heart of it all we have Beca (Anna Kendrick), a withdrawn yet spirited loner who’d rather be producing music than going to college. Beca is a nice balance of rebelliousness and sensitivity, but what I really loved about her character is that on the surface she is quite the free spirit but ever now and then she gives glimpses of the kind of
insecure character Kendrick has played before in movies like Up in the Air. I also enjoyed the fact that Beca’s love interest wasn’t the typical hunky pretty boy that movies like Pitch Perfect usually go with. Instead we have Jesse (Skylar Astin, who looks a lot like Zachary Levi from Chuck at times), an adorably quirky cinefile who works with Beca at the campus radio station and sings for a rival Accapella team, “Here Comes Treble”. Jesse is confident without being arrogant, and just awkward enough that it’s an endearing quality.
If you come for Anna Kendrick, you’ll stay for the rest of the “The Bellas”. The first name that comes to mind is Fat Amy (Australian comedian Rebel Wilson), who provides some of the most consistent laughs of the entire movie in a very blunt and self-aware manner. I’ve heard that Wilson is essentially playing the same role here that she always does, but as I’ve only ever seen her in a small part in Bridesmaids I wasn’t bothered by that. Besides Fat Amy the rest of the Bellas have their own moments of stealing the spotlight, between a
ridiculously soft speaking asian girl (Hanna Mae Lee), a lustful lesbian (Ester Dean) an oversexed ditz (Alex Knapp) and more. My one complaint would be that Aubrey (Anna Camp), the stick-up-her-ass leader of the Bellas feels like the most cliche and least interesting character whenever she’s not projectile-stress-vomiting. The douchebag head of “Here Comes Treble”, Bumper (Workaholic’s Adam DeVine) also suffers from a cliche dirtbag role, which felt like a bit of a missed opportunity but a forgivable one at least.
Finally there were some great, great cameos by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as the two wildly inappropriate competition announcers, as well as an all too short appearance from Scrubs’ Donald Faison and The Daily Show’s Jason Jones as past-their-prime accapella alums. Also keep an eye out for a nearly equally amusing appearance by McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).
At every turn, Pitch Perfect surprised me with how funny it managed to be. The humor isn’t quite as ridiculous as The Campaign, nor was it as raunchy as a lot of the material in Ted. Instead the script goes for a lighter touch, and I enjoyed how the humor never felt like it was being shoved in the audience’s face. A lot of scenes reminded me of a female version of the kind of unremarkable but enjoyable banter that people like Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd have been capitalizing on over the past few years. At it’s heart, the movie is a female “bromance”, a “Homance” if you will, and after this movie I am looking forward to more female bonding movies like For a Good Time Call…
Ever since I discovered them at Sasquatch music festival this year with artists like Girl Talk, I have absolutely loved mash-ups. Anna Kendrick seems to agree in the movie as her character spends most of her free time matching up songs with similar chord progressions to produce very cool sounding hybrid tracks. There are some great examples of the blending technique here, and I’m really hoping that people watching this movie will start listening to artists like Super Mash Bros. (my current favorite). In any case, the mash-ups would be pointless without good voices to back them up, and there are no shortages here. Anna Kendrick especially holds her own in this regard, and one scene where she is auditioning for the Bellas and using a plastic cup as a back-up beat is particularly impressive. As a cherry on top I’d like to mention that I just bought the soundtrack on Amazon Mp3, which marks the first time I’ve purchased a movie soundtrack since O Brother, Where Art Thou.
The Verdict: 7.5/10 Superior
I will admit, there were a few times in the movie where I had to consciously stop myself from applauding along with the people on screen after a song, but then I realized I didn’t have to because other people in the actual audience were clapping as well. I should mention that this was the only theater in Seattle that had the movie and it was completely packed, and I love being in a packed theater. If I were to guess, I would say that Pitch Perfect will be filling up theaters into it’s full nationwide release next weekend and will prove to be one of the biggest success stories of this fall. It’s already received a per theater average of over $5,000 on its opening day (almost as much as Looper and Hotel Transylvania combined) and if the movie’s strong word of mouth translates into actual ticket sales it could be this year’s Easy A. Bottom line, this was the most fun I’ve had at a movie in quite some time, and I’d highly recommend it to you if you enjoy the kind of humor in movies like Bridesmaids.