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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pitch Perfect

This film couldn't possibly be as bad as its awful tagline, can it? "Get pitch slapped?" Yeesh!

Pitch Perfect is the kind of genre film that adamantly refuses to stray so much as an inch from its well worn formula - and, you know what, it's all the better for it. 

Here we have a musical comedy about Beca, an "alternative", goth-type freshman who, through some typically silly machinations, begrudgingly joins an all-girl acapella group who are in desperate need of a new sound and a new attitude. Absolutely no points to anyone who can guess what happens next. 

Pitch Perfect is predictable and formulaic to the point that it feels like an old song for which you already know all the words, but like the best old standards, its familiarity is comforting, rather than irritating. It's a film that knows what it is and knows that its audience knows what it is and takes it from there.   

It is, admittedly, a film that would work better for fans of the kind of overly-smooth, potentially auto-tuned (I still can't get a definite answer on that) acapella whose pop sensibility stretches back no further than a decade. The acapella singing and the intricate choreography are undoubtedly very well done, but I couldn't help but wish they had been applied to more worthwhile songs. Give a listen to Petra Haden's ingenious one-woman, all acapella version of The Who's classic 1967 album, The Who Sell Out, to see how well this sort of thing can be applied to something that isn't the most boring and banal of pop songs. 

Still, weak as the song selection is, the musical nmbers are well handled and they're never taken at all seriously so it's easy enough to go along with it. Especially as the rest of the film is such good, corny fun. Its sentiment is well earned as the characters are far more likable than their stereotyped one-dimensionality would suggest and, thanks in large part to the gleefully over-the-top Rumer Willis, is constantly laugh-out-loud funny.

Most importantly though, the film simply has charm coming out of the wazoo. Partly it's the writing and partly it's the dependably solid supporting cast but mostly it's having Anna Kendrick in the central role. Not only is she a very fine actress, Kendrick is simply an immensely charismatic and likable screen presence and not only does she elevate her potentially cringe-worthy character into a relatable, likable human being, but she also provides the film with its one moment of genuine musical bliss. Yes, I am referring to the "cup song" and, no, I'm not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen her recent appearance on David Letterman.

Needless to say, Pitch Perfect is hardly going to go down as some great masterpiece - hell, assuming that it will be remembered so much as a year from now is probably being optimistic - but it's a great choice for fun and relaxing holiday fare.

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