It would be reductive to compare Pitch Perfect too closely to Bridesmaids, although there are obvious superficial similarities. For a start, it’s a comedy featuring what is predominantly a female cast; secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it is, like Paul Feig’s 2011 smash, really very funny.
It also features a terrific lead turn from Anna Kendrick, whose performance isn’t as all-out comic as Kristen Wiig’s was, but which still carries the film. And then there’s Rebel Wilson, filling Melissa McCarthy’s shoes as the idiosyncratic big personality who steals most of the scenes she’s in.
Kendrick plays Beca, a socially awkward teenager just starting out as a freshman at Barden University, where she quickly becomes involved in an all-female a capella group – the Bellas – headed up by prim, controlling Aubrey (Anna Camp). The Bellas have history with an all-male group lead by the smarmy Bumper (Adam DeVine), and the narrative works its way towards a final showdown at the year-end competition.
Jason Moore is directing his debut feature here (after various television credits) and he handles the material, and the tone, very well. It’s established immediately that impromptu bursts of a capella are considered pretty standard fare on this campus, and as a result the film quickly develops into a fun, offbeat musical with lots going for it.
Most of the musical numbers work well, in particular the closing showdown, during which Beca is finally allowed to mix her burgeoning talent as a DJ with her place in the Bellas. Whether the a capella songs performed on the soundtrack contain only vocally-generated sounds seems a little dubious at times, but it doesn’t really matter; the scenes are nicely choreographed and manage not to forget about the characters in them while the singing and dancing is going on.
Above all else the film just feels like pleasant company. A scene where Kendrick and male lead Skylar Astin sort records is cheesy in the extreme, but it doesn’t half bring a smile to the lips, as does his undying love for John Hughes’ classic 80s film The Breakfast Club, the significance of which Beca doesn’t immediately comprehend.
The comic beats are many, and the hit rate is generally consistent. There are some slightly wide-of-the-mark choices but that’s pretty much to be expected in a film which throws so many different characters at the screen, and you could argue there isn’t a huge amount of depth to any of the characters. But this is an a capella musical comedy, after all; character depth isn’t what most people will be going in for.
The film’s only properly misfiring joke is a recurring vomit gag which gets things off on rather the wrong foot and is repeated a couple of times, but you can forgive the film for that; after all, it sticks in the mind only because the rest of the film is so enjoyable.
Let’s be reductive for a moment after all. Is Pitch Perfect this year’s Bridesmaids? If by that we mean a thoroughly likable and surprisingly funny comedy, then yes, I suppose it is.