Now Playing: A Musical Comedy with a Few High Notes

Since I was on vacation last week, I tried to see as many movies as early as possible before I left. I RSVP’d to the press screening for ‘Pitch Perfect’ without knowing a single thing about the movie. When I told a friend what I’d be seeing, she laughed. I find 95% of contemporary musical/dance flicks dreadful and unwatchable – and I’d been oblivious to the fact that ‘Pitch Perfect’ was a ‘Glee’-ful comedy about college a cappella groups. The 90 minutes leading up to showtime were full of despair for me. How could I have let this happen? I was angry with myself. Well, imagine my surprise when I actually started to enjoy the movie. By the time it was over, I was shocked to realize that I’d actually had a good time watching something that I’ve grown to loathe.

‘Pitch Perfect’ isn’t a great movie, but it’s much better than it should be thanks to some surprisingly decent comedy. The story has been done a thousand times before, but the approach taken here keeps it worth watching. Produced by Elizabeth Banks (who also shows up in it a few times), the film blends her zany brand of comedy with an almost mocking look at lame modern musicals. It’s no wonder why she was attracted to this property; it features her style through-and-though. I’m sure that if she could still pass as a college-age kid, she would’ve played one of the leading roles.

Anna Kendrick (who’s always fun to watch when she’s not appearing in ‘Twilight‘ movies) stars as a freshman rebel at college who wants nothing more than to escape the grasp of her father. She wants to move to Los Angeles to pursue a job as a label agent and ultimately record music of her own. Her dad tells her that he will not only approve the move to L.A., but will even finance it if she hunkers down and gives college a full-year trial – both academically and socially. To meet her end of the deal, she starts putting effort into her classes and joins the one extracurricular club that she never expected – the Barden University Bellas, an all-female a cappella group.

From this moment on, the movie is as predictable as it sounds, only it’s much funnier than it has the right to be. The majority of the characters have aspects that warrant laughs. Rebel Wilson from ‘Bridesmaids‘ and ‘Bachelorette’ plays Fat Amy, a singing and dancing version of the repulsive woman we’ve seen her play over and over again. Adam DeVine of ‘Workaholics’ plays the arrogant toolbag leader of the Bellas’ all-male rivals, the Treblemakers. Banks and John Michael Higgins play commentators for the competitions. Joe Lo Truglio and Donald Faison play a couple of washed-up glee club performers, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays an overly-aggressive vocal coach.

I’m not saying that ‘Pitch Perfect’ is the best thing out there, but it’s much more entertaining than most of September’s releases – that is, of those that were screened for press. Its crude PG-13 screenplay ought to make you laugh more than any other comedy currently playing in first-run theaters.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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