Beca, a freshman at Barden University, is cajoled into joining The Bellas, her school’s all-girls singing group. Injecting some much needed energy into their repertoire, The Bellas take on their male rivals in a campus competition.
Though it suggests itself as Glee: The Movie, Pitch Perfect is, pleasingly, something closer to Mean Girls: The Musical. The plot, with miscellaneous educational misfits a-singin’ their troubles away, is straight out of Glee, but it has little interest in moralising or political correctness, or trying to make you think about wheelchairs. Instead, it has Mean Girls’ catty wit and shrewdly observed characters, not necessarily surprising given screenwriter Kay Cannon works on Tina Fey’s 30 Rock. It’s certainly among the best teen movies to come along in a while.
The music side is really the less interesting area. It’s not that all the cast don’t sing very well, nor that the arrangements aren’t slickly and catchily produced; it’s just that choreographing pop hits as a large group is always going to seem a little dweeby. But they’re still plenty of fun, bopping along nicely and building to the big finale, spiced up by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as competition commentators à la DodgeBall.
Much more exciting is everything in-between, which is a true ensemble comedy. Anna Kendrick, who yet again hits just the right note between pithy and chummy, is splendid as the girl baffled by the weird politics of her new school. But the spotlight is not purely hers. Skylar Astin’s love interest is much more interesting than the standard talking six-pack. Anna Camp and Brittany Snow are stompily Valley-ish as the heads of the group. And Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy — she calls herself that so bitches won’t do it to her behind her back — steals scenes shamelessly.
There’s an occasional sense that a lot has been cut here in order to keep the film tight — a love-triangle is hinted at then dropped — but that’s no complaint. The haphazardness is part of the charm, skidding from one loopy set-up to the next, but never losing sight of its story. You can go on the weird flights of fancy you want, as long as you have well-written characters to anchor it.
It’s the kind of silly you can only get away with when your writing is very smart. A little bit odd and very, very funny.