Just how many a capella puns can you fit into a movie that runs just under two hours? A-ca lot.
"Pitch Perfect" does for a capella (making music with mouths, as we're constantly reminded) what "Bring It On" was to cheerleading. An eyeliner-imbued alterna-chick (this time, it's Beca, played "Up in the Air's" Anna Kendrick) is thrust into a world she deems lame and gradually learns to love it, while the girls she surrounds herself with teach her life lessons that allow her to grow as a person. Or, like, whatever.
"Pitch Perfect," based on the non-fiction book by Mickey Rapkin, plays out like the average sports underdog flick, complete with audition and practice montages and game-time footage. Beca is a freshman at Braden College who wants to skip higher education to move to L.A. and become a DJ. She's all about mash-ups, blocking out the world around her with massive headphones. She joins the all-female Braden Bellas, a staid a capella group filled with colorful characters, like Fat Amy ("Bridesmaid's" Rebel Wilson), who affixes the "Fat" to her name so "twig bitches" don't call her it behind her back.
"Bring It On" never took itself seriously, dousing scenes in bright colors and impressive cheer routines while staying consistently bouncy and fun. "Pitch Perfect" tries to go a little deeper but the script isn't there to back up the story, with a lot of telling and a definite lack of showing. One element that gets a little too much screentime is an extended vomit scene that literally makes a mess of the third act, screeching it to a halt. It feels out of place in the otherwise squeaky clean flick.
The superfluous vulgarity is so disappointing if only because "Pitch Perfect" has some legitimately funny moments. "Nothing makes a woman feel more like a girl than a man who sings like a boy," says Elizabeth Banks ("The Hunger Games") as one half of an a capella play-by-play team, alongside John Michael Higgins ("Best in Show"). Most of these moments come courtesy of Wilson who steals every scene she's in. When a rival a capella group leader says he thinks they should hook up, she responds, "I sometimes have a feeling I can do crystal meth . . . then I think, Ehh, better not."
Contact Molly Eichel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-854-5909. Follow her on Twitter @mollyeichel.