There’s an audition montage in “Pitch Perfect,” much like many of the countless audition montages seen before in films like this, in which characters belt out Kelly Clarkson’s hit “Since U Been Gone.” One particular line from this song stood out to me—“Shut your mouth I just can’t take it.” And as the characters belted out these words, I longed for them to follow Kelly Clarkson’s own advice.
As both an avid fan of music and film, when a movie executes a music-centered plot poorly, the experience most resembles a simultaneous stabbing of the eyeballs with an icepick to the ears. “Pitch Perfect” is one of these movies, grasping at the appeal of a cappella and singing competitions that have been obviously elevated by the success of television’s “Glee.”
To quote Channing Tatum in “21 Jump Street” – “Fuck you, Glee.”
I understand the appeal of a cappella, and performing music without instruments is something that requires immense skill in the vocal department. And while “Pitch Perfect” certainly has its moments, the music turns the movie into more of a soundtrack than an actual film. For what it’s worth, some of these top 40, cookie-cutter songs being covered don’t even sound like they used real instruments the first time around.
So that being said, ignore everything I am about to say if “Pitch Perfect” seems like the type of film for you. It’s a movie where funny jokes and charming moments are the minority, and impromptu driving karaoke sessions to Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” are the norm. If this sounds like your type of shindig, then by all means attend.
As for me, I wanted John Belushi to rise from the dead, making his collegiate return by silencing these bubble-gum musical numbers just like he did with an acoustic guitar in “Animal House.” My ears were mostly miserable by the conclusion of the film, despite some occasional moments where the arrangements actually sounded nice. But like most of the movie, the appeal is so insignificant it can hardly elevate “Pitch Perfect” to likable levels.
Even adorably affable lead Anna Kendrick can’t save this film, which is a statement I’ve sadly had to make twice in recent weeks with this and “End of Watch.” As Beca, the super alternative girl with piercings and tattoos who joins her college’s all-girl singing group, Kendrick is a constant vibrant personality on screen—as is much of the cast, though the film’s material is of no assistance to the cause.
There is so much in this film begging to be liked. The attitude, the style, the characters—this movie wants to be “Bring It On” for singing competitions, and ends up just being “Glee: Co-Ed Edition.” And keeping up with the tradition of high school kids who look like they’re in college, the students of “Pitch Perfect” look like they should be in grad school at the very least. Some look like they should be married with kids.
All in all, the movie fails to ever stay on key—its flats and sharps are so apparent and distracting that it makes the movie constantly less fun. You could make a drinking game out of how many times the movie substitutes the word “Pitch” for a similarly sounding swear word, or puts the word “Aca” in front of another (as in, I wanted to Aca-kill myself).
One of the film’s opening comedic moments arises from a character puking all over the place. Later in the film, it happens again. By the end of the film, I wanted to make it a third.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.