An analysis of the Step Up! and/or Bring It On franchises would show that both sets of films follow a particular formula. Directed by Jason Moore, Pitch Perfect (2012) is very much of the same ilk. Inspired by TV shows such as Glee, this ensemble comedy should be commended for being an entertaining watch despite its predictable nature. Anna Kendrick stars as Beca Mitchell, a rebellious college freshman who’d rather spend her time producing music than attending classes. Her father (John Benjamin Hickey) wants her to broaden her horizons, and soon she finds herself auditioning for ‘The Bellas’, an all-female a cappella group.
Led by Aubrey (Anna Camp) and Chloe (Brittany Snow), The Bellas need new members to challenge for the international championship of collegiate a cappella. The tone (pun intended) is literally set in Pitch Perfect’s opening seconds with a great amendment to Universal Studios’ opening title card. From there, the singing only gets more impressive – a ‘riff-off’ is a particular highlight in this regard – and renditions of popular songs will have you singing along in double-quick time. Thankfully, even if you’re not a Gleek, there’s still plenty here to enjoy.
Kay Cannon’s script is packed with sharp humour, and for the most part the gags are well-realised. Save for Beca and obligatory love interest Jesse (Skylar Astin), there is little character development on offer here. With that said, there does not need to be, and bit part caricatures like Alexis Knapp’s lustful Stacie and Hana Mae Lee’s almost inaudible Lily serve their purpose well. Additionally, the bitter rivalry between the Bellas and all-male group The Treble Makers produce some great laugh-out-loud moments. It’s just a shame that at almost every turn Pitch Perfect is unable to shake its predictability. Beca’s budding romance with Jesse, for example, plays out to its inevitable conclusion with nary a surprising moment.
The film’s many time jumps also prove problematic, with the narrative not flowing as well as it could. Kendrick is excellent as Beca, expanding her acting repertoire once more in a brave performance. Unsurprisingly, it’s Rebel Wilson who scores the biggest laughs as Fat Amy, reprising her much loved comedic shtick to good effect. Snow is also a stand-out as the overly controlling Chloe, whilst John Michael Huggins and Elizabeth Banks (who also produced) pepper us with some great one-liners as two competition commentators.
In an era of cinema where crude comedy is becoming more and more prevalent – with Ted and The Campaign two recent 2012 examples – it’s nice to watch a comedy that’s funny simply due to a good script and courageous performances. Whilst it doesn’t always hit the right notes, it’s for that reason that Pitch Perfect ends up being one of this year’s better US comedies.
This review was originally posted on 19 December, 2012, to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release.