PITCH PERFECT (M)
Stars Anna Kendrick, Anna Camp, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt; directed by Jason Moore; 112 minutes
This comedy about rival college a cappella groups - one female, one male - takes a not-so-veiled dig at Glee, which - along with that title - is risky. While conceding a TV series has more room for story and character development than a movie and that Pitch Perfect has its own pleasures, this enjoyable but uneven movie doesn't quite succeed in banishing memories of its more earnest small-screen cousin.
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Beca, a freshman at Barden University, is cajoled into joining The Bellas, her school's all-girls singing group. Injecting some much needed energy into their repertoire, The Bellas take on their male rivals in a campus a capella competition.
Beca (a rather mature-looking Anna Kendrick) dreams of being a DJ in Los Angeles but is coaxed by her father into enrolling at Barden University, where he teaches. Her vocal talents are soon discovered and she is talked into joining the Bellas, the all-female a cappella group whose bossy leader, Aubrey (Bella Strong) is determined to make up for an unfortunate incident the previous year that saw them lose the championship to their all-male campus rivals, the Treblemakers. But they seem stuck in a rut, even with new blood members such as Beca; the forthright Aussie, Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson, who has some good lines); and whisper-quiet Lill (Hana Mae Lee, funny but too often inaudible: how did such a girl get into a singing group?).
To continue with the comparison, the film invites: Glee has a lot of plot lines and characters and juggles them efficiently (sometimes a bit too efficiently) whereas Pitch Perfect sometimes seems both overstuffed and underdeveloped. Some characters, such as the nerdy magician and wannabe singer Benji (Ben Platt) seem completely unnecessary - too prominent to be amusing bit characters and too hollow to feel real; it's as though footage was left on the cutting-room floor. Other elements, such as Beca's developing relationship with a charismatic Treblemaker, Jesse (Skylar Astin) are pleasant but familiar.
There seemed to be a few missed opportunities for humour along the way, too, but there's still enough to make the film a pleasant way to fill a couple of hours. The impromptu singing competition between the boys and girls was fun and a lot of the outrageous comments by the singing competition commentators (Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins) are funny. Kendrick, a generally impressive young star, is good as Beca, who is able to put her mixing skills to good use for the group's benefit and indeed most of the cast get moments to shine. And the musical numbers are fun, too, even if they don't for the most part seem to be truly a cappella: there's more than vocalism at work.
If you like Glee and are in the mood for something similar at the movies, Pitch Perfect should fit the bill. It has more in common with its TV counterpart than it would like to admit.