Pitch Perfect: Film Review

A nerdy, sexy musical romp with none of the self-righteousness of "Glee."

Jason Moore's comedy starring Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow and Skylar Laine is an enjoyably snarky campus romp that's both wildly nerdy and somewhat sexy.

Pitch Perfect is an enjoyably snarky campus romp that’s both wildly nerdy and somewhat sexy. Set in the unlikely world of a cappella singing, this snappy, smart-mouthed comedy with tons of music offers choice opportunities for a bunch of young performers to pop out of the crowd while playing game characters searching for modes of self-expression. Girls, gays and music fanatics represent the core audience, but the good times also should go down easily with a wider in-the-know crowd.

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A too-cool-for-you smarminess sheathes the cutthroat competitiveness at Barden U., where, on club recruiting day, The Bellas, an all-female a cappella group, urgently need new blood to have a chance of beating male rivals The Treblemakers, who prevailed in the national finals the previous spring.

With few options, The Bellas’ imperious blond leader, Aubrey (True Blood’s Anna Camp), and redheaded cohort Chloe (Brittany Snow) dragoon sullen freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick) into the group, though she’s an aspiring music producer who’s only at college because of pressure from her professor dad. Among other newbies are the hilariously self-deprecating Fat Amy (BridesmaidsRebel Wilson); Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), an Asian Kewpie doll type who speaks more softly than a whisper; and Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean), a black teen so butch that Fat Amy thinks she’s a boy.

Snidely funny sexual-identity comedy suffuses the loose-limbed script by Kay Cannon (30 Rock, New Girl), which ardently embraces the “organized nerd singing” that is a cappella with none of the self-congratulatory righteousness of Glee. Although martinet Aubrey expressly bans all Bellas from mingling bodily fluids with any Treblemakers, which is fronted by the ultra-obnoxious but talented Bumper (Adam DeVine, of Comedy Central's Workaholics), Beca nonetheless is courted by group nice guy Jesse (Skyler Astin, Broadway's Spring Awakening), a wannabe film score composer whose way of putting a move on Beca is to show her what he considers the greatest movie sequence of all time: the ending of The Breakfast Club.

Debuting feature director Jason Moore, best known for having staged Avenue Q on Broadway, sets a quick but not frantic pace and keeps it there; one easily could believe he goosed the actors before every scene, so alert are they to everything going on. The unusually attractive cast, which is consistently filled with performers well over college age, is fun to watch. Among the Bellas, Kendrick's Beca appealingly blossoms from wary outsider to the one everyone counts upon; Camp's Aubrey seemingly would rather die than take off her self-imposed straitjacket; Snow's Chloe receives some of the knocks she needs to begin straightening herself out; Wilson's Fat Amy has a hilarious arsenal of quips, looks and moves; Dean's Cynthia Rose shows the kind of right stuff you always want on your side; and, for maximal eye candy, Alexis Knapp's Stacie is always towering voluptuously and informing everyone how much sex she has. You get the feeling all of these talents will be heard from more decisively in the near future.

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Scarcely five minutes of screen time goes by without music, be it in rehearsals, impromptu challenges or regional competitions leading up to the national finals at Lincoln Center in New York, and the bulging soundtrack calls upon oldies, newbies and everything in between to be rendered vocally without instrumentation, with normally arresting results unless it’s supposed to sound bad. The choreography is similarly sharp without tipping over into the outlandishly professional. The film was shot in Louisiana, with LSU providing the campus locations.

Opens: Friday, Sept. 28 (Universal)
Production: Gold Circle Films
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Adam DeVine, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Alexis Knapp, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Ben Platt, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Michael Viruet, Freddie Stroma, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Jason Moore
Screenwriter: Kay Cannon, based on the book
Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory by Mickey Rapkin
Producers: Paul Brooks, Max Handelman, Elizabeth Banks
Executive producer: Scott Niemeyer
Director of photography: Julio Macat
Production designer: Barry Robison
Costume designer: Salvador Perez
Editor: Lisa Zeno Churgin
Music: Christophe Beck, Mark Kilian
Choreographer: Aakomon "AJ" Jones
Rated PG-13, 112 minutes