Pitch Perfect – Review

Roy Ward

Dear reader, don’t judge me, but I spent a lot of last weekend watching Glee, and – NO WAIT, COME BACK.

When the show first came out, I was an enormous Gleek, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Well actually I totally am. But eventually the show just became a bit too much for me – the constant over-earnest preaching about tolerance and acceptance, some truly abominable cover versions of songs I love, and Mr Schuester’s incessant rapping all blended together to become a technicolour sing-a-long nightmare. Somewhere along the way, however, I learned to embrace the more cringe-inducing aspects of the show and appreciate it for what it was; a typically Ryan Murphy affair with zero subtlety but with a lot of excellent characters and a lot of heart. And, most of all, a lot of singing.

I bloody love musicals. I long for a world where it is acceptable for people to communicate by bursting into song. Imagine; you’re in a supermarket, stalking down the harshly neon-lit aisles, pushing a trolley laden with the ready meals and white wine that make your hideously solitary existence almost bearable. You look up from scrutinising the calorie count on that tub of Strawberry Cheesecake Haagen-Dazs that you hope will make the pain of your day that little bit easier, and you spot the most tremendously hot individual you have ever seen in your entire life. They are sexy, and they are checking you out.

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You drop the ice cream on the ground, and start playing air-guitar as you run towards them, sing-screaming that famous ode to shagging so hard you need a fire extinguisher, ‘Sex on Fire’ by the Kings of Leon. Hordes of fellow shoppers drop their handbaskets and become an impromptu backing chorus, as the object of your desire sways and blushes under the spell of your song.

Except of course, you didn’t do that. This is real life, and in real life people don’t sing their feelings. In real life, you blush, you perhaps flash the sort of smile that looks like you’re most likely suffering from hideous wind rather than flirting, and you walk away. The end, your life is terrible. But wouldn’t the musical version be so much better?

Back in January I went to the cinema to see Pitch Perfect, which was pretty much all the best bits from Mean Girls spliced with the parts of Glee that make me want to smile rather than gouge my own eyes out. This week it’s finally out on DVD & Blu-Ray in the UK, and if you missed it earlier this year, I implore you to check it out. It’s a movie set around the horrendously competitive world of collegiate a cappella singing, complete with mash-ups, riff-offs (we’ll get to that later), and the scene-stealing Rebel Wilson. In the opening 10 minutes we get an all-male a cappella version of Rihanna’s ‘Please Don’t Stop the Music, some unfortunately timed projectile vomiting, and a pretty awesome mash-up of ‘212by Azealia Banks and ‘Bust A Move’ by Young MC. Add Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy, “the best singer in Tasmania with teeth”, who ad-libs at least 80% of her lines, and you know you’re onto a winner.

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I remember going to watch Mean Girls in the cinema back in 2004 and very quickly I realised it was an absolute classic, hilariously funny and endlessly quotable. Pitch Perfect doesn’t quite reach the same dizzying heights as Mean Girls, but it comes pretty damn close. BECAUSE OF THE SINGING.  There’s a bit with a heart-warming sing-a-long to ‘Party in the USA’ on a bus. There’s another bit where the University’s four a cappella groups compete against each other in a drained swimming pool by singing a ‘riff-off’.  It’s too complicated to explain, but suffice to say any musical sequence which allows for a flawless transition between Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ and Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ is one I’m happy to get behind.

It’s witty, it’s weird but it’s wonderful. I’m not sure how many other teen movies have ever featured a sharing circle where a character reveals she ate her twin in the womb, but I imagine it isn’t many. The songs and the music never feel forced or awkward, and the characters are mostly well-written and incredibly well-cast – and it’s important to note that here we have a movie all about women. Yes there are male characters, and yes there’s the obligatory romantic subplot, but at its heart, Pitch Perfect is a movie about sisterhood and the teenage desire to figure out what you want from life.

The movie’s financial and critical success has also led to this week’s announcement that Pitch Perfect 2 is currently set for a 2015 cinematic release. The fact that no definitive casting details have been announced leads me to terrified speculation that we could have another Mean Girls 2 on our hands. Have you seen that movie? No? Go and punch yourself in the childhood instead, it’s less harrowing. Once they announce the return of at least some of the original cast – oh, who am I kidding, I’m mostly only bothered about Rebel Wilson returning – then we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief on that front. Watch this space, folks.

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Starring in the movie also seems to have prompted lead actress Anna Kendrick to flirt with a musical career, as she releases a single version of one of her performances. Watch and enjoy – it’s a great song and I’m utterly determined to learn the cup thing to bust out at parties. It might not be acceptable to burst into song in real life but using drinking vessels as percussion instruments is the next best thing, right? Right?!

About Roy Ward

When Roy was 7 a girl tied him to a tree and tried to set him on fire. He now lives in Leeds with his boyfriend. These facts may be connected. Vada's Deputy Editor, he loves pop culture in all its forms, plus feminism; drag queens and Nigella Lawson. Find him on Twitter @badlydrawnroy.