'Pitch Perfect' Review: Like 'Glee' Sans Politics
A year after “Bridesmaids” became a female comedy sensation Anna Kendrick and a comic cast of ladies are poised to do it again.
Kendrick, sassy and delightful, is the sarcastic but adorable star of "Pitch Perfect," a PG-13 ensemble comedy with the humor of “Bridesmaids,” the music of “Glee” and soul of "Sister Act 2."
Kendrick is Beca, a college-resistant freshman at Barden University with dreams of mixing music in L.A. To satisfy her father’s demand that she get involved on campus, Beca joins the Bellas, an all-girl a capella group.
Graduating seniors and an embarrassing loss at the previous championship have decimated the Bellas, leaving returning singers Aubrey (Anna Camp) and Chloe (Brittany Snow) with dreams of a championship, and an inexperienced mismatch of girls to make it happen. With the a capella national champions, the all-male Treblemakers, targeting the title again, Beca realizes the path to victory will require a shake-up, something she and the odd band of new singers might be perfectly prepared to do.
On-screen, Kendrick is darling, and it’s no surprise why Trebelmaker Jesse (Skylar Astin) falls for her. As the love interest, he’s endearingly self-deprecating, with a clean, quick sense of humor – a little bit like James Marsden from “30 Rock.” He's balanced nicely between his nerd roommate Benji (Ben Platt) and tool singer Bumper (Adam DeVine), who leads the Treblemakers.
Kendrick is supported by a cast of cliché co-eds, from the uptight preppy Aubrey, the fun cheerleader-type Chloe, sex-crazed co-ed Stacie (Alexis Knapp), lesbian Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean), mousy Lilly (Hanna Mae Lee). But each emphasizes their qualities to the max, and the mix works.
None stand out quite like Rebel Wilson, however. The self-titled “Fat Amy" is easily the most enjoyable character in the film. Terrific as Kristin Wigg's roommate in "Bridesmaids," Wilson shines as a sarcastic, unfiltered Aussie.
If you only watched the trailers for "Pitch Perfect," you might think she's the main character since she's so heavily featured. And with good reason: The comedy clicks the minute Fat Amy walks onto the quad.
“Pitch Perfect” strikes the right comic tone largely because of the team behind it. GQ editor Mickey Rapkin's book about collegiate a capella served as the source material for husband/wife producing duo Elizabeth Banks (who is featured as one of the competitions' announcers) and Max Handelman’s film. Kay Cannon of “30 Rock” and “New Girl” – two shows with strong female leads – crafted a hilarious script from Rapkin’s work. The film exudes Banks' trademark off-beat and sometimes off-color humor with the wit and physicality of “30 Rock” and “New Girl.” Jason Moore of Broadway's “Avenue Q” fame makes his feature debut here, and it's as whimsically naughty as his famed puppets.
Unfortunately, like "Bridesmaids" and nearly every guy comedy out there, "Pitch Perfect" reaches for gross-out humor when it runs out of actual comedy. Several disgusting throw-up scenes left me a little queasy. The plot goes haywire a few times too, notably when a group of long-graduated singers drop in at a competition and start a fight that lands Beca in jail. The moment is mildly funny, mostly needless, and excusable only because it features Donald Faison and moves a few relationships forward.
Stereotypes and occasional problem scenes aside, “Pitch Perfect” is everything to love about "Glee," before it went political; everything funny about "Bridesmaids,” PG-13-style; it’s the fun underdog story of "Step Up," but with an actual story line; and it has the heart of "Sister Act 2," complete with a parent-daughter reconciliation.