Mash ups, the combination of two songs to create a third, have surprisingly been going on since the 1950s. Sixty years after the fact and, whilst the art of the cut-up, the A vs B, white labels and Britney Spears singing with System of a Down is still doing the rounds, the mash-up truly penetrated the public conscience with Glee; the televisual equivalent of being beaten around the head with a pubescent day-glo parrot. With numerous series, spinoffs and merchandise, the Glee train shows no signs of slowing anytime soon… So, it’s a surprise that Hollywood has taken so long to cash in with it’s own tale of singing, friendship, education, singing and friendship.
Enter Pitch Perfect.
Produced by Elizabeth Banks, Pitch Perfect sees rich girl/rebellious yoof, Beca (Anna Kendrick), enroll at a prestigious college where she joins an a cappella group, The Barden Bellas, to please her overbearing professor father, who will let her drop out of college to become a DJ if she can prove she can achieve something. After a disastrous performance at a grand final the year before, the Bellas have fallen from grace and only the raggiest taggiest bunch of rag-tag singers are willing to sign up in the new term. Soon Beca’s rebellious, fresh faced attitude to music and the rhythm is clashing with The Bella’s pompous and unyielding leader (Anna Camp), who truly believes their tried and tested performance will see them across the finishing line. With the A Cappella finals only weeks away, what’s going to happen?!
Like the mash-ups Beca puts together in her dorm room, Pitch Perfect is two separate entities thrown together in the hopes of something joyous being the sum of its parts. On one hand, we have the bouncy, perky Bellas – all separate parts of a women’s id (sexiness, shyness, body issues) – singing loud and singing proud and just showing the bloody male dominated world of A Cappella how’s it done. It’s no different from Bring It On and the last five teen chick-flicks. On the other, we have a series of gross out scenes and ad-libs that don’t stray too far from the likes of Superbad and – whisper it – Bridesmaids.
Unfortunately, as a result it’s all very patchy. The script seems to be the main problem; eschewing female stereotypes in a similar fashion to Mean Girls, but missing the point completely. Like robbing an old couple in broad daylight, sub-plots enter through one door and swiftly walk out of the other, with a VHS underarm, before you can even piece together what’s happened. It’s such a join-the-dots affair that as the central romance circles down the plughole in the second act, you don’t even kid yourself that it will stay that way. The message of how one can achieve anything and how it’s better to be part of a team than a lonely island is lost amongst women rolling in vomit, dead end romances and some pretty awkward racial profiling (Ooh, Asians! They’re all just so studious!).
The cast is perfectly fine and has some great comic timing; but Rebel Wilson’s ad-libbing shows them up. It’s obvious in certain scenes that they can’t keep up, with only Adam DeVine as the leader of a rival A Cappella group managing to stay the distance. In fact, Rebel Wilson is the true star of this film and we look forward to the day when she gets a starring role as something other than someone’s fat friend.
Finally, let’s not forget that this is a musical and in this department, everyone shines. We tapped our toes and hummed along with all the rosy-faced youngsters in the cinema. We just couldn’t ignore the fact that we’d seen all this jumping around on the previously mentioned Glee.
There is a perfectly serviceable teen romp to be found in Pitch Perfect. If it just took a lie down in a darkened room with a cold compress for a few hours, then it may just find out what it actually wants to be. In summary, Pitch Perfect is not pitch perfect, but game all the same.