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Monday Movies Sets Fires to Feel Joy

Pitch Perfect spans the intolerable and the sublime. It’s the story of Beca (Anna Kendrick), a college radio DJ who prefers to keep to her headphones but reluctantly joins an a capella singing group when her professor father says she can only quit college and go to L.A. if she spends her freshman year just trying something. She hooks up with the Bellas, an all-female group whose ranks have been decimated after the lead senior flubbed last year’s championship by projectile vomiting out her “I Saw The Sign” solo. There’s a rival boy group with a romantic foil for Beca (Jesse, played by Skylar Astin, adorable and vocally blessed), and a Revenge of the Nerds-level motley crue of misfit singers filling out the Bella’s replacement ranks.

The movie has little interest in verisimilitude, mostly when it comes to depicting college life–Beca’s dad actually welcomes her to her first semester of college by saying “campus is beautiful in spring.” (The a capella groups’ initiations, however, are dead on.) Subplots rise and fall with little payoff — here’s a bit about Skylar’s roommate Benji being cut from the team, there’s a bit about Beca’s dad’s abandonment leading to her character’s misanthropy. There’s some grotesque slang-engineering that mostly involves adding a prefix of “aca-” to whatever, and a lot of casual cruelty standing in for humor. The tight-ass dictator who serves as Beca’s foil on the Bellas is so unbelievably a control freak that it’s hard to see how she wasn’t keelhauled at the second rehearsal. As competition color commentators, Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins gamely livesnark the proceedings, but they pale next to their obvious referent, Fred Willard and Bob Balaban in Best in Show. (Banks calls Higgins out as a misogynist for his pronouncement that “women can never be great a capella singers because they can’t produce those stirring bass notes,” but in the end, the movie affirms his prejudice.)

Here’s the thing, though… I had a great time. It’s a hot mess of a movie, and when it shines, it shines. Romantic leads Kendrick and Astin can both sing and act, and generate enough warmth to make you care about them no matter how unbelievable the drama gets. Rebel Wilson is hilarious in every frame she holds the camera — her line readings alone are worth the price of admission. And the a capella performances are terrific. They’re total cheats, of course, engineered with Brill Building perfection, but since the rest of the film is engineered with Dr. Moreau mania, the set pieces electrify the movie. The Bellas’ rivals, the Treble Makers, are fantastic, led by Adam De Vine (Workaholics) with tight guest rapping by Utkarsh Ambudkar and a Juan Epstein look-alike in Michael Viruet.

They would win the proceedings if it weren’t for Beca figuring out what Margaret Schlegel could have told her: Only connect! The 1980’s to the 2010’s, herself to Jesse, as mashup DJs and ingenues all at once. The movie The Breakfast Club gets boldly recruited into the emotional capper; it’s fun for me as a Generation Xer to see it put in the hands of characters who were born well after it came out, and I wonder if any of their real world counterparts give a damn about it.

What did you see, and was it on key?

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October 8, 2012 - Posted by | Monday Movies | , , , ,

2 Comments

  1. I saw Looper last weekend. It was a very different movie than I expected. I liked that they pretty much conceded that if you think about the time travel too much, it doesn’t make much sense. It was a good strategy, because they seemed to trip over the logic (or lack thereof) a couple of times. But it was a lot less dependent on action than I expected and I enjoyed the slower pace of the latter part of the film.

    Last night, I half-heartedly watched Empire Strikes Back. Each time I stop on even the original three Star Wars movies, I enjoy them less and less I think. This time the whining and bitching of Luke and the two droids was what was wearing on me. I know the droids are for comic relief and help make the movies more family friendly, but Lucas’s insistence on this type of thing in the movies is annoying as hell.

    Comment by mattintoledo | October 9, 2012

  2. i watched _maurice_, liked it, very believable gay love, and with a better other actor than hugh grant, watch just around 2-3 netflix movies a month cz forget often to watch or post it, so it’s not even a movie per week, but i don’t want its streaming, always so bad quality movies, on dvd i can order at least some award winning or classic movies without going to any shops, still convenient, or maybe can pay the cable per view to watch a movie, if discontinue netflix
    but i watched a lot of russian old and new movies on youtube, one per evening i guess, the new ones are mostly not good, but easy watch, melodramas, like lifetime movies minus any kind of violence or other inappropriate scenes for which i hate watching movies in the theaters with a lot of strangers watching the same thing, too many embarrassing parts in any given movie, seems as if like some kind of that, mass voyeurism
    action movies are okay though, for the scale and effects

    Comment by read | October 9, 2012


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