By John wirt
December 26, 2012
Louisiana being the frequent destination for film production it’s been in recent years, another locally shot movie, Pitch Perfect, opens this week.
With its campus-set, Glee goes-to-college scenario, Pitch Perfect makes much use of the LSU campus. And locals may recognize a Perkins Road commercial district near Baton Rouge’s City Park. The film’s production notes also thank Southern University and Baton Rouge Community College.
Pitch Perfect looks like a Glee knockoff, but it’s actually based on journalist Mickey Rapkin’s 2008 book, Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory. Like the students in Fox TV’s popular Glee series, the a cappella singers at the fictional Barden University perform re-creations and mash-ups of old and new pop, rock, rhythm-and-blues and hip-hop hits.
Some elaborate choreography mixes with the music, especially during competition scenes. Occasional gross-out comedy of the kind that often fills high school and college-set comedies shows up, too. It’s unnecessary but maybe filmmakers assume it’s a prerequisite for youth comedies.
Anna Kendrick leads an ensemble cast of young actresses and actors who play students who participate in the cappella groups. Kendrick portrays freshman Beca, a musically inclined but nonsocial young woman who wants most of all to move to Los Angeles and work for a record company.
At her college-professor dad’s insistence that she participate in college life by joining at least one campus club, Beca auditions for the Barden Bellas a cappella group.
The Bellas are a rainbow of young women. There’s Lilly, the mousy Asian girl who speaks in a whisper (Hana Mae Lee). There’s the, shall we say, socially active, profusely endowed Stacie (Alexis Knapp). There’s Cynthia Rose, a black lesbian who’s especially good at rap and R&B (Ester Dean).
While many of Pitch Perfect’s supporting characters are sketchy at best, Fat Amy from Tasmania is the exception. Show stealing Australian actress Rebel Wilson, previously seen in that bad-girl comedy, Bridesmaids, deadpans Amy’s funny lines and fearlessly exploits her plus-sized physique in physical comedy, too.
Most of the movie’s male characters belong to a rival Barden University singing group, the Treblemakers. One Treblemaker, Jesse (Skylar Astin), pursues Beca while his group confidently pursues another national a cappella championship.
Despite Jesse’s ongoing courtship of Beca, Pitch Perfect’s stronger storyline matches new girl Beca against the Bellas’ control-freak leader. Anna Camp co-stars as the blond, tunnel-visioned task masker, Aubrey, a heavy-handedly shaped character designed to inspire audience hostility.
Kendrick previously played characters beyond college age, including George Clooney’s nemesis in 2009’s Up in the Air. Nevertheless, the 27-year-old actress relaxes naturally into the role of Beca, a character who casts her supposed antisocial behavior aside, sings and dances and does her best to roll with Aubrey’s boderline bullying. The movie’s plot, not to mention the Bellas’ repertoire, experiences a crescendo via Beca’s infusion of 21st century music into the group’s otherwise oldies-weighted set list.
Occasionally going out of storytelling key, Perfect Pitch nonetheless is lively and fun, boosted by Kendrick’s straight-woman chemistry, clever dialogue and multiple amusing supporting characters.