Monday, February 9, 2015

Pitch Perfect

2012, d. Jason Moore -- netflix

In the intervening two-ish years between Pitch Perfect's theatrical release and last month I managed to build up a huge level of excitement for this campus competitive a cappella comedy without really knowing why, to the point that when it came onto Netflix I gleefully turned to my wife and exclaimed "Ooooh, Pitch Perfect!  We need to watch this ASAP!"  And we did, at the first available opportunity.  And I loved it, as I expected to.  For what is, by all accounts, a rather mediocre film, I unabashedly loved it, logic or reasoning be damned.

This is the kind of "new wave" chick flick, equal parts romance, gross-out, and college campus comedy, with a dash of non-sport competition thrown in for thrust.  Anna Kendrick plays a freshman at the college where her dad teaches.  She could still live at home but she chooses to move into the dorm for a sense of liberation.  She DJs in her spare time, making mash-ups (remember when those were a thing back in the last 2000's?) and volunteers at the campus radio station (which, unlike almost every campus radio station I know, isn't looking for students who want to do their own programming).  She's a bit of an outsider, and seems disinterested in much other than her own interests so her dad challenges her to get out, socialize, join a club, and if she can stick with it for the year, he will pay for her to go to school in L.A.  She gets suckered into a rag-tag all-female a capella club that's fallen on hard times, and gets sucked into all its drama and competitive b.s., making friends and nemeses along the way to the big competition.

What makes the film work is not its sort of stock plot, but all the eccentric asides it has.  The competing a capella groups on campus sub in for the frats of your typical campus comedy, while an off-the-books sing-off competition provides this rather puerile recreation a comically overstated sense of dangerous cool.  At the big competition, in the front lobby, a quartet of 30-somethings set up a pop-up booth, trying to reclaim faded glory from their college days.  And then there's the weirdo characters like Hanna Mae Lee's sweetly mumbling pyromaniac (think of the offspring of Alyson Hannigan from American Pie and Stephen Root from Office Space and you'll get the idea) or Rebel Wilson's aggressively confident/clumsy Fat Amy, and even the two girls who are always there, never named, and then pointed out for precisely that reason late in the game.  It has some sharp comedic angles which get rounded off frequently, but every now and again it surprises with how clever it can be.  The singing competitions are all pop songs mixed up in varying ways, most of them palatable if not enjoyably so (save perhaps the aggravatingly sugary "I Saw The Sign", but it's pointedly in the film repeatedly for that very reason) .

If there's a major drawback to this film, it's the lead male, Kendrick's love interest, played by Skylar Astin.  As if that name weren't enough to make you want to smack him in the face, he has an unfortunately perennial smirk on his face (and upturned curl at either side of his lips that he genetically can't help) that just makes you want to hit him, repeatedly.  Perhaps it's just me.  I had a mad hate-on for Astin thanks to incessant repeating of ads (or rather, the same ad) for his atrocious sit-com Ground Floor day after day, week after week for months watching my TV programs via Canadian network streaming sites and on-demand channels.  There wasn't a moment he appeared on screen that I didn't find myself expressly resenting his presence, yet, even with that sizeable drawback (he's in the film a lot) I STILL loved this movie.  It's just good fun.  I can't wait for the sequel this summer!