What do you get when you mix equal parts “Glee” with “Mean Girls” with a side order of “Bring it On”? You get the musical goulash “Pitch Perfect,” a school comedy combo that offers up singing, cliques, a “riff off” and vomit jokes.
In an effort to make friends Beca (Anna Kendrick) reluctantly joins The Bellas, a straight-laced college campus all-girl a capella group, only to end up performing a “songs about sex” medley highlighting Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” Along the way she learns to open up, love “The Breakfast Club” and deal with the group’s “a capolitics.”
Midway through “Pitch Perfect” Jesse (Skylar Astin), Beca’s tuneful love interest, says, “Not liking movies is like not liking puppies.” I’m not going to suggest that not liking this movie means you don’t like puppies, but it tries its best to be cuddly, lovable and scratch its furry belly.
Sure there’s barf gags (literally… imagine a vomit angel…wait, don’t)—which picks up where the food poisoning scene “Bridesmaids” left off—but there’s also female bonding, a romance and musical numbers galore.
And therein lies the problem. The cast, led by American sweetheart Kendrick and Australian Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy, are immensely watchable. Funny, charming and occasionally odd (during one bonding scene Lilly, played by Hana Mae Lee, confesses to eating her twin in the womb) and when they’re talking, it’s mostly fun. But unfortunately, between The Bellas and their male counterparts The Treblemakers, they also sing. A lot. And the music is the least interesting part of the movie.
Imagine Bobby McFerrin wannabes for ninety minutes.
Luckily “Pitch Perfect” banks some goodwill on the strength of the performances, but the presentation of “oral magic” feels more like, as one character says, “an elephant dart to the public’s face.”
If extraterrestrials (ET) were to study earth by watching movies and television they might end up with a skewed idea about what life is like on the third rock from the sun.
Alien anthropologists could be forgiven for thinking that Chuck Norris is an indestructible force for good, that all waitresses in New York live in spacious apartments and that all telephone numbers begin with the digits 555.
ET’s might also deduce that bursting into song is as important to school life as readin’, writin’ and zit cream. The peppy casts of High School Musical (described in the Urban Dictionary as “obviously written by old people who have no recollection of what high school was about”) and Glee have made singing in the halls acceptable.
And they’re not alone. Movies are full of teen opera singers, rock stars and rappers who belt out tunes between (and sometimes during) classes.
This weekend, Anna Kendrick stars in Pitch Perfect, a school comedy about a girl who reluctantly joins The Bellas, a straight-laced campus all-girl singing group, only to end up performing a “songs about sex” medley highlighting Blackstreet’s No Diggity. The Bellas (and their male counterparts The Treblemakers) join a long list of students who express themselves in song.
The most famous school on the planet has to be Hogwarts, the fictional British boarding school for witches and wizards featured in Harry Potter. Less known is their singing group, the Frog Choir. They don’t appear in any of the books but made their debut in the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third Potter film. Director Alfonso Cuarón came up with the idea for the chorus, who perform while carrying toads, and got the approval of the grand wizard herself, J.K. Rowling, to include them.
Singing is used to reach difficult, rowdy students in The Chorus. The Oscar nominated French film was France’s number one movie of 2004, and made star and producer Gérard Jugnot, who mortgaged his Paris apartment to help finance the film, the highest paid actor of that year.
Finally, music transforms the lives of two former Disney stars — Vanessa Hudgens and Aly Michalka — in Bandslam, a rock ’n’ roll high school fable.
Part Disney show, part Monkees, part music video and part Mickey and Judy, it’s a surprisingly fun little music movie that is just a couple of notes away from being completely in tune.