Not perfect but on pitch
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 23:10
It’s an interesting time for women, comedy and film. After last year’s “Bridesmaids” came out of nowhere to become one of the highest-grossing comedies ever, and the highest-grossing comedy starring women, it raised the question: “Are women funny?”
I am nowhere near qualified to answer that question, but Universal Pictures, the distributor that took a risk on “Bridesmaids” (and reaped a large pile of money as their reward), has decided to strike while the iron is still pretty warm with the new woman-dominated, college a cappella comedy “Pitch Perfect.”
When it comes to comedies made and targeted to girls, I don’t have much experience, what with my Y chromosome, but I do know that “Mean Girls” is one of the best. Is “Pitch Perfect” on that movie’s level, what with its Glen Cocos and trying to make “fetch” happen? No, but it does a remarkably good job at coming close.
The plot is pretty simple; imagine UConn’s great a cappella groups, and now have them perform in intricate national championships, except with more vomit. This is where Beca, played by Anna Kendrick, finds herself as she progresses through her freshman year at a fictional New Jersey college. Kendrick is 27-years-old in real life, by the way. Good one, Hollywood.
As the film retreads familiar territory, the quality of the work has to shine through the actors and actresses. Luckily, “Pitch Perfect” manages to collect an eccentric, frequently-funny troupe of singers that are slightly stereotypical but reasonably intelligent.
Rebel Wilson runs away with the film as Fat Amy, an Australian ball of energy who steals every scene she’s in. Having made a splash in “Bridesmaids,” Wilson’s character clearly has the DNA of Melissa McCarthy’s character from that movie. At face value, she seems to be the “overweight actress that everyone makes fun of” but quickly becomes not only a fully-fleshed out character but the film’s high point.
Kendrick is less amazing, but perfectly serviceable, as the lead. The extensive ensemble ensures good vibes, though, as everyone has fun with the material. As the rockstar leader of the fake Jersey school’s national champion a cappella fraternity, Adam Devine from “Workaholics” demolishes his immature material. He may still be playing his character from that Comedy Central show and by effect maybe himself, but he’s hilarious in doing so. Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins are also great as snarky, hateful TV commentators. Brittany Snow, a guy who looks like Bruno Mars but somehow isn’t and other colorful characters round out the cast.
The music of an a cappella movie is a key point, and “Pitch Perfect” gets about a B. Despite some retroactively terrible dialogue and choices (the movie shot last fall, so a plot point about the indie qualities of top ten hit “Titanium” fall flat), most of the music is acceptable at worst. It’s better than “Rock of Ages,” at the very least.
Finally, where the movie really shines is its slightly off-color humor, which earns most of the movie’s credit. The jokes come rapid-fire, and almost half of them connect, which is a surprisingly good ratio. And they’re well set-up, too, with a good amount of snark. Some are especially brutal, but they finely shape its twisted heart.
Did I love “Pitch Perfect?” No. Did I like it enough to give it props? Totally. It’s a fun little success of a low-budget project. Plus, it’s original enough, and surprisingly funny enough, to more than earn its keep. “Mean Girls” is still on top, but “Pitch Perfect” is close behind.