Pitch Perfect: An Aca-Honest Review of the A Cappella Movie

By Kersten Jaeger on October 29, 2012

There are few things as musically impressive as singing a song without any instruments and making it sound complete. The very talented cast of Pitch Perfect, a movie about collegiate a cappella singing group, definitely impresses. But, while their singing hits the mark, the other aspects of the film are not as perfect.

Photo from IMDB.com

The movie follows Anna Kendrick as fictional Barden University freshman, Beca, an aspiring DJ and amateur “mash-up” creator, who rebels consistently against…well it’s not exactly clear, but it seems to be against enthusiasm. Outfitted with smudged eyeliner, dark nail polish, and a smattering of small tattoos, she enters college with a slightly over-the-top “too cool for school” attitude. She is also very disinterested at first in the campus a cappella group the Barden Bellas, who make music “all from [their] mouths”.

The plot of this movie is very formulaic, but nevertheless entertaining. It is obviously cliché, but instead of taking itself too seriously, it embraces, and even exaggerates, the cheesiness – even including new a cappella vocabulary like “aca-awkward” and “aca-scuse me?”. Two of the most ridiculous characters are the announcers at the a cappella competitions, fantastically performed by John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks, who was also a producer of the film. They gave a beautiful homage to the ridiculous commentary of events like this, saying the most outrageous, and often uncomfortable, comments, such as “nothing makes a woman feel more like a girl than a man who sings like a boy.”

It doesn’t matter that this storyline lacks any twist or any real shocks, because its comedy and musical numbers keep it from becoming boring. The humor was surprisingly well done, with really great comedic timing by Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin who plays the charming love interest, and Rebel Wilson who kills it as the very talented “Fat Amy”.  In her first breakout role playing the extremely shy Lilly, comedienne Hana Mae Lee had some of the best comedic moments.

Where this film disappointed, however, was with its characters. Anna Kendrick acted really well with what she had, but unfortunately she didn’t have much. Her character, Beca, seemed upset and angry over nothing the majority of the time. Her relationship with her dad is strained, due to a briefly mentioned – and barely explained – divorce with her mom, but he is portrayed as very nice and understanding so her anger at him appears completely out of place. She has the emotional angst befitting a fifteen year old high school girl rather than a college freshman. This also diminishes the credibility of the love story because she is angry and dislikeable for a large portion of the film, especially when interacting with her love interest.

Photo from Hollywood.com

The other character that missed the mark was the ridiculously strict leader of the Barden Bellas – and the antithesis to Beca – Aubrey, played by Anna Camp. She was uptight and unyielding to the point of absurdity. She was too over-the-top and scenes with her in them were just frustrating to watch.

It was particularly disappointing the the two leads of the movie were so sub-par because there were some really interesting and engaging side characters in the movie, including the aforementioned Fat Amy and Lilly, and the very entertaining extreme geek Benji. Even Bumper, the unlikeable leader of the rival a cappella group the Treblemakers, was entertaining in his rude and insulting nature.

Despite the lacking characters, I would still highly recommend Pitch Perfect. I was repeatedly laughing out loud and singing along. The music arrangements were very well done, including an awesome audition sequence set to Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”. It’s ultimately a feel good, entertaining movie that won’t surprise you, and definitely won’t win any Oscars, but will have you leaving the theater smiling as you hum “Don’t You Forget about Me”.

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