Andy Bockelman: ‘Pitch Perfect’ hits the right notes
November 1, 2012
If you go
Film: "Pitch Perfect"
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Run time: 112 minutes
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson
Playing now at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas
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Steamboat Springs — If all the musical instruments in the world suddenly were to be destroyed tomorrow, subsets of the population might not notice, having devoted themselves to the art of creating full melodies purely from the voice box. The rest of us may not transition so smoothly to the lack of accompaniment, but if these two extremes work together, the outcome very could well be "Pitch Perfect."
As another semester begins at Barden College, so starts the a cappella singing season. The school's men's group, the Treble Makers, is ready to defend its national title against all comers.
That includes Barden's all-female ensemble, the Bellas, who consistently have underwhelmed judges year after year in comparison to their male contemporaries. Group leaders Chloe and Aubrey (Brittany Snow, Anna Camp) know this year will be different, providing the incoming freshman class has what it takes to create memorable harmonies.
That's where they hit a sour note, bringing together singers who could not clash more, from an introvert (Hana Mae Lee) whose speaking voice is barely audible, to a girl who insistently refers to herself as Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson). And then there's Beca (Anna Kendrick), a begrudging addition to the outfit whose lack of interest in college life is second only to her loathing for the girlie pop music repertoire which the Bellas always have sung.
The more time they spend rehearsing, the more Beca feels a new set list could give the group an edge, but the amount of tension between her and fastidious Aubrey could threaten to disband the Bellas altogether.
The always appealing Kendrick can play optimistic well, as seen by her wonderful bit as the sunny therapist of "50/50," but her real talent lies in playing sharp-tongued individualists as in "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" and "Up in the Air." As Beca, she's sullen, scrappy and interested purely in her own tastes, aspiring to be a DJ or record producer rather than using her considerable pipes to produce some beautiful music ultimately realizing both can coexist if others around her are willing to shake things up.
To be fair, you can hear, let alone sing, Ace of Base's "The Sign" only so many times before going a little nutty.
Even so, domineering Type A personality Aubrey, nicely played to the hilt by Camp, seems to think such songs are the only way to take home the big prize, despite having never won singing them.
As Aubrey's lieutenant in the a cappella army, Snow provides a buffer between Beca's apathy and Aubrey's fevered pitch moving toward competition, but nearly every major laugh comes from Australian export Wilson as Fat Amy, a Rubenesque rabble-rouser with a knack for always saying something ridiculously funny and stealing the spotlight with a diva sensibility.
When these ladies mix together in just the right way, it's something special to behold, even though it's a long journey for them to find their best sound. It's maddening to think there's a person who spends their time arranging all-vocal renditions of the rock, R&B and hip-hop selections used here, but if "Glee" can do it …
Whether you find the whole a cappella movement to be the only worthy part of music today or just want it to go away, you'll be able to relate to something in this story, which pokes fun at this often absurd world — such as phrases like "pitch-slapped" and "A ca-scuse me?" — while still making the hopes and dreams of the singers realistic.
Any movie made about singing, dancing, what-have-you, usually emphasizes its performance scenes and just lets the snippets of real life happen, but "Pitch Perfect" gives us a gaggle of girls that's fun to watch when they're offstage and simply dynamite when they're in show mode. Faithful Gleeks, let's hope this is what your beloved characters become once they get to college.
Andy Bockelman is a Craig resident, freelance writer and Denver Film Critics Society accredited film fanatic who occasionally reviews movies playing in Steamboat Springs.
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