“Pitch Perfect” didn’t exactly come with perfect timing. “Glee” has defamed the modern musical with its heavy-handed morals and sloppy direction. Despite the juiced-up renditions of recent chart toppers and the nearly 30-year-olds playing college students, this is not “Glee: The Movie.” Instead of getting preachy, “Pitch Perfect” is a dependably nerdy and surprisingly sexy self-parody that’s hilarious in its hyperbole. It’s much more in tune with the endearingly self-aware “Bring it On.” Just replace the cheerleading with a capella.
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The result is nothing short of magical.
Beca (Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”) is a loner girl who’d rather be in L.A. producing music — or becoming P. Diddy, as her professorial father puts it — than starting her freshman year at Barden University. But after pressure from seniors Chloe (Brittany Snow, “Hairspray”) and Aubrey (Anna Camp, “The Help”), she joins Barden’s all-girl a capella group, the Bellas, and uses her mashup-mixing skills to bring some needed edge to their act.
Kendrick is killer, as always, but it’s the other young stars — some of them relatively unknown — who fill the film with so much spark and spunk that they make admittedly cardboard characters come to life.
Camp plays tight-lipped Aubrey, who runs the Bellas and refuses to deviate from the sugary, buttoned-up act they’ve performed for years, with a charming grace that makes it hard to hate her, even if she does say things like “Acascuse me?!” Rebel Wilson’s (“Bridesmaids”) bizarre Fat Amy — which she calls herself so “twig bitches” won’t say it behind her back — never runs out of hilarious quips or movements.
Straight from Broadway, Skylar Astin (“Hamlet 2”) is irresistibly adorable as the movie score-loving romantic interest for Beca. And as leader of Barden’s all-male a capella sensation the Treblemakers, Adam Devine’s (TV’s “Workaholics”) Bumper — think Bieber, but with 100% more douchiness — has delicious divatude, the male Regina George of a capella.
There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about the story, but there doesn’t need to be. Screenwriter Kay Cannon (TV’s “30 Rock”) piles on the punchy zingers, and debuting feature director Jason Moore’s (Broadway’s “Avenue Q”) camerawork gushes with an unstoppable energy that makes “Pitch Perfect” one continuous dance party. The opening scene sets the quick, yet composed pace right away, with a rousing — and arousing — performance of “Don’t Stop the Music” from the Treblemakers while Elizabeth Banks (“The Hunger Games”) and John Michael Higgins (“Bad Teacher”) get their Christopher Guest on as the hilariously inappropriate and plastic competition commentators.
An audition sequence in which a capella hopefuls belt out an electric rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” followed by Beca’s much quieter, gorgeous cover of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by Lulu and the Lampshades, is nothing short of masterful — both musically and visually.
But the film’s crowning jewel comes by way of the riff-off, a “Stomp the Yard”-like showdown that’s as perfectly absurd as it sounds. Musical directors Ed Boyer and Deke Sharon flex their musical muscles, resulting in fresh harmonies and inventive recreations of familiar tunes. The scene could have lasted another 15 minutes, but ending with a smooth rendering of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” is hard to argue with, and not only because we get to see Kendrick rap.
No, “Pitch Perfect” does not offer a realistic depiction of college life. It offers something better: a glitzed-up remix of college life. It’s a world in which the worst thing that could possibly happen to you is a nodes diagnosis and you literally never have to go to class because you’re too busy making music (with your mouth) and a naked Brittany Snow could at any moment barge in on you in the shower and demand that you sing David Guetta’s “Titanium” while she harmonizes with her junk out.
Who could resist that?