Review: 'Pitch Perfect' hits right notes

Comedy excels during singing numbers

Published: Oct 04 2012 11:52:52 PM EDT
Pitch Perfect movie image

So, movie audiences are being presented with a new film about a singing competition. The first reaction from a lot of people might be, "Wait a second. We have 'Glee,' 'The Voice,' 'The X-Factor' and 'American Idol' on TV. That subject is pretty well-covered." But happily, the new comedy "Pitch Perfect" carves its own niche to deliver a surprisingly entertaining experience.

The story revolves around incoming college freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick from "Up in the Air"), who is bitter about a lot of things including the fact her parents are divorced and her dad won't let her take off to Los Angeles to pursue a music career.

She soon discovers that her new school is a hotbed of a capella singing groups who are in intense competition. They include the perennial champions, "The Treble Makers," led by the cocky and obnoxious Bumper (Adam DeVine of Comedy Central's "Workaholics") and "The Bellas," an all-girl group that keeps picking tired routines to perform.

Beca reluctantly joins "The Bellas" but her cutting-edge music tastes clash with the group's leader Aubrey (well-played by Anna Camp from "The Help"). Aubrey is so focused on singing that she works "a cappella" into every conversation -- as in, "aca-scuse me?" Some of the more prominent members include Australian actress and stand-up comic Rebel Wilson ("Bridesmaids") playing "Fat Amy," a girl whose conversations don't contain any kind of filters. There's also Brittany Snow ("Hairspray") playing the group's peacemaker. (Snow has a remarkable resemblance to Reese Witherspoon.) Unfortunately the other members of the group don't get as many lines, but when they do, they are devastatingly funny. Especially Hana Mae Lee as the extremely quiet but dark member of the group who whispers revealing tidbits about herself such as, "I set fires to feel joy."

"Pitch Perfect" has some solid comedy credits behind it. Based on the book by Mickey Rapkin, the screenplay was written by Kay Cannon, a writer/producer on the show "30 Rock." She got the assignment when Elizabeth Banks, a semi-regular guest star on the sitcom, became producer of the movie, along with her husband. Banks also has a funny role in the film playing a TV broadcaster delivering such insights about the competitions as, "Yes, but a mistake can affect the rest of our life and haunt your children."

The film does try to accomplish too much at times with a few too many characters. It does return to more stable footing whenever the story focuses on the delightful Anna Kendrick and her situation, which includes a romance with a fellow singer played by the engaging Skylar Astin of "Taking Woodstock."

The movie really fires on all cylinders when it comes to the singing numbers. Director Jason Moore was nominated for a Tony for his work on the Broadway production of "Avenue Q," and his expertise is clearly evident when the groups take the stage. Their performances are beautifully choreographed and the wonderful singing arrangements are delivered with so much joyous energy that one can almost feel the audience being won over.

"Pitch Perfect" is a delight, and although I hate using this over-used comment, it truly is a feel-good movie well worth seeing.