Written by: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
My passage from former Glee lover to hater has been well-documented via this site and my near constant Facebook rants and yet I haven’t been able to escape the show. It’s musical styling and lack of continuity is seeping into entertainment like swine flu and one of its casualties is Pitch Perfect. A lot of factors were working in this film’s favor including starring Rebel Wilson and Anna Kendrick, two actresses I generally adore. Sadly, the script and direction are sorely inspired by Glee and little else leading to plotlines that are unceremoniously dropped, and the inability to keep the plot moving unless a song is being sung. While at times sharp and biting in its wit Pitch Perfect does nothing more than play it safe.
The film tells the story of Beca (Kendrick), a young woman who wants to go to L.A. to be a deejay but her estranged father tells her she has to get a college degree first. As a way of proving to her father she’s taking college seriously Beca joins the Barden Bellas, the university all-girl a capella group suffering from a horrific incident during their National championship. With Beca’s help the Barden Bellas hope to rise above their defeat and win the entire championship.
It’s all about the music people. I know mash-ups and dance music have saturated the market but the music here is creative, snappy, and actually utilizes a capella compared to anything Glee’s ever done! The actors don’t have Christina Aguilera-esque pipes but can all sing incredibly well, even Wilson who doesn’t really have a singing voice per se. The actors singing masks a lot of the film’s flaws and had they carried that throughout the film’s runtime (which is an overlong hour and 52 minutes) it could have been really good. The final championship scene is well-done with amazing choreography, again not on the hyper level of Step Up but natural, and fun song selections.
I also have to praise our actors who all do a good job, but the wafer thin script limits any of them from rising above to do work that would be considered “sensational.” Anna Kendrick is good but her literal rebel without a cause character isn’t at all genuine. She comes off like a desperate poser complete with 1999 levels of black eyeliner and nail polish. Kendrick is sassy and can turn the worst lines into comedy but she’s just too stereotypical, there’s nothing new in this role for her. Rebel Wilson is also great as Fat Amy. I wrote a lengthy essay on Wilson’s roles as the funny fat girl and while she is limited to that she kicks ass with the physical and verbal comedy. I’d have watched an entire movie about her! The same can be said for Hana Mae Lee who plays the shy Lilly. Lilly’s character trait is that she talks all in whispers leaving the camera to zoom in on her mouth. The girl’s lines are gold and are highly disturbing (“I ate my twin in the womb”) but boy is this girl hysterical! Again, Wilson and Lee need to team up for a film.
The main flaw with Pitch Perfect is how shallow everything is. There are no big stakes other than losing the tournament and really, that doesn’t seem to matter considering how much time the film devotes to performing. Aside from the regional sequence there’s no competition again till the final five minutes of the movie and we never actually see the Barden Bellas win or lose! If it wasn’t for the film’s final minute where the winners of the competition pick who will audition first we’d never know and leaving that as the way of telling the audience who won is lazy as if it wasn’t even important watching them compete at all. And did I mention all the “pitch” puns. Yep it’s akin to when Bring It On added all the “cheer” stuff to their lingo so you get words like “pitch slapped” and “a ca scuse me?” They actually shorten a capella and add it to their dialogue. Let’s just say it wears out its welcome fast.
It’s shocking that director Jason Moore created the Broadway darling Avenue Q and yet is unable to make anything of this film. The script, penned by Kay Cannon, doesn’t help much as there’s no character development aside from archetypal traits given to each character. Around the hour mark Beca actually tells the group “we don’t know anything about each other” and tries to incite character development! Um, it’s a little late to make the audience care about your characters, don’t you think? The film literally puddle jumps from one plot to another including Beca’s estrangement from her father that’s never explained nor resolved aside from Beca going to his house to talk about the Bellas. There’s also a love story between her and a rival a capella member that one would expect to be important (a Romeo and Juliet twist) but nope, the problems lie with Beca being unable to commit. I didn’t understand that! The film tries really hard to demonize Beca for some reason and if your film tries so hard to make the audience hate your main character, why make her the lead? Why not just make her a villain?
The rest of the characters are interchangeable and somewhat big names like Brittany Snow and Anna Camp are relegated to the background. Pitch Perfect ends with the Bella’s never feeling like a unified team and that’s lazy for a film that’s trying to pitch itself as an underdog film! Honestly, the only thing Pitch Perfect knows is that it wants to sing and aside from the music there’s little to recommend this. It feels like a really, really long episode of the aforementioned Glee. The characters are unimportant and the plot lines change from scene to scene. It’s a time-waster film in my opinion; you’ll chuckle during the runtime but after you leave you’ll be picking it apart and noticing how forgettable it is.
Author: Kristen Lopez, Editor in Chief
Kristen Lopez is the editor-in-chief of CC2K and a freelance pop culture essayist. Her work has appeared on Roger Ebert, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Daily Beast. When she’s not burning down Film Twitter she runs two podcasts, the female-centric film show Citizen Dame, and the classic film-themed Ticklish Business.