[Screen It]


(2012) (Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin) (PG-13)

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Musical Comedy: Members of an all-female singing club try to put aside their differences to win a national college competition.
Beca (ANNA KENDRICK) is the new girl on the campus of Barden University, but she doesn't want to be there. She'd much rather be in Los Angeles, working the music scene and living out her dream of being a club remix DJ. But her recently remarried father (JOHN BENJAMIN HICKEY), a professor at the college, has convinced her to give the campus a one-year try.

Beca is almost immediately recruited into the Bellas, an all-girls a cappella singing group led by uptight Aubrey (ANNA CAMP) and free-spirited Chloe (BRITTANY SNOW). Together, they recruit a group of misfit singers to take on their male rivals, the Treblemakers, led by Bumper (ADAM DeVINE) and new recruit Jesse (SKYLAR ASTIN) who has a crush on Beca. The new Bellas range from an outspoken Brit who calls herself "Fat Amy" (REBEL WILSON) to the promiscuous Stacie (ALEXIS KNAPP) to lesbian Cynthia Rose (ESTER DEAN).

Conflict comes when Beca tries to challenge Aubrey's authority in the group. She'd like to use her remix skills to jazz up the Bellas' tired routines. But Aubrey is a stickler for tradition and an unapologetic control freak. Meanwhile, the Treblemakers have troubles of their own when Bumper quits on them and Jesse has to convince his "Star Wars" fan boy roommate Benji (BEN PLATT), who has a terrific voice but was rejected earlier by the group, to take his place at a national competition in New York City covered by TV commentators Gail (ELIZABETH BANKS) and John (JOHN MICHAEL HIGGINS).

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
We're so inundated with movies and TV shows in which characters are gifted with superhero powers or vampire powers or alien DNA that we forget to marvel at the very real and very incredible things that human beings can actually do in real life. I'm in awe of talent, folks. I always have been. I think anyone who can throw a baseball 100 miles per hour has a super power. I've met people who can speak as many six, seven, even eight different languages fluently, and they just floor me. And, wow, have you ever been up close to an opera singer doing his or her thing? I'm sorry, but THAT is a super power!

I've always thought of singing in general as something of a power, whether it was the late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti or that smooth crooner Andy Williams, who passed away just this week. So when I see a movie like "Pitch Perfect" about groups of college-age a cappella singers banding together and joining their voices in harmony, I step back just a touch as a reviewer and first marvel at the talent. There is a lot on display in this movie.

Fortunately, after that period of marveling was over and I put the critic's cap back on, I was rewarded with a pretty darn good movie, too. "Pitch Perfect" is a step above flicks like "High School Musical" and the various Disney and Nickelodeon ventures featuring talented kids taking part in some form of show-biz hijinks. It's better because it's not a squeaky-clean film. The young students in this movie swear, they drink, and they fool around in showers. That may not be the best thing to hear as a parent who is deciding whether or not to let your teen see the film, even though it is rated PG-13 and not R. But it's probably more of a stylistic point that your teens will appreciate more than you will.

Anna Kendrick stars as Beca, an incoming freshman who would rather be living the club scene in L.A. as a remix DJ than shackled on a college campus and going to classes five days a week. But her professor dad has asked her to give university life a chance for one year, so that's what she is there for. When a campus coed named Chloe (Brittany Snow) hears her singing in the shower, she quickly recruits her into the all-female a cappella group the Bellas. Beca reluctantly agrees and almost immediately starts butting heads with the Bellas' domineering leader, Aubrey (Anna Camp). Meanwhile, she makes a new friend in the outgoing, self-named "Fat Amy" (Rebel Wilson) and catches the eye of Jesse (Skylar Astin), a member of the Bellas' rival group, the Treblemakers.

This all leads to a series of singing contests done tournament style that culminates in a championship event in New York City. Along the way, Beca will discover being part of a community is better than being a lone wolf, Aubrey will learn that it is OK to be a leader and still listen to others, and Fat Amy will find her rightful place on a stage performing for people. It's all very predictable, and the screenplay by Kay Cannon contains few surprises. But this isn't a film about plot twists. It's about performances. And just like in the "Step Up" flicks and their dance hooks, those who come for some the singing will leave happy.

"Pitch Perfect" seeks nothing more than to be entertaining, and it is. It's a very likable film, too. It doesn't hamstring itself by injecting social or political commentary into its narrative and short-circuiting the laughs. No greater good is going to come of these kids pouring their heart out in song. It's a movie about different personalities coming together and finding harmony, both literally and figuratively. Former Oscar nominee Kendrick anchors the film, while Wilson of "Bridesmaids" delivers most of the big laughs. Together, all concerned make for a pretty "Pitch Perfect" ensemble, and "Pitch Perfect" makes for an altogether fun night out at the movies. I rate it a 6.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed September 19, 2012 / Posted September 28, 2012

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