If the bizarre spectacle of Anna Kendrick belting out “No Diggity” in a West Side Story-styled after-hours boys vs. girls sing-off doesn’t tickle your absurdity sensors, you’ll probably be in for a very long evening with Pitch Perfect. An extremely silly Bring It On knock-off set in that brutal, cut-throat world of collegiate a cappella singing, this high energy mess of a movie makes up for what it lacks in basic competence with goofball exuberance.
Kendrick, the ever-reliable supporting player whose incongruously sharp features clash fascinatingly with big round eyes, steps up to the lead as a surly outsider entering her freshman year at Barden College. She has tattoos and makes mash-ups on her computer, so in a movie this freshly scrubbed, such things qualify her as a rebel. Through a variety of contrivances that take up more screen time than they really should, she ends up an unwilling member of the Barden Bellas, a dysfunctional gang of female songstresses lorded over by a couple of uptight martinets (Brittany Snow and Anna Camp), who stick to rigidly traditional arrangements of Ace of Base songs and vomit under pressure.
No points for guessing that Kendrick’s irreverent, fresh ideas are just what these gals need to shake up the entire a cappella scene, slyly commenting on the storyline’s tired familiarity by uttering all the clichés aloud with a slight air of self-mockery. Working from Mickey Rapkin’s nonfiction book, 30 Rock writer Kay Cannon undercuts the dull formula beats with throwaway one-liners and surreal nonsequiturs that will feel familiar to fans of Tina Fey’s TV program.
Plus-sized breakout star Rebel Wilson walks away with the picture as Fat Amy, who calls herself that “because you bitches will do it anyway.” Pitch Perfect borrows way too much from Bridesmaids—particularly the unfortunate bodily function humor—but credit Wilson and Cannon for refashioning the Melissa McCarthy role into something far less grating and actually rather heroic. (For once, the heavy gal’s sexuality isn’t played for yuks.)
Pitch Perfect is a slovenly lark, but a spirited one.