In “Perfect Pitch” two a cappella college singing groups battle for the big prize.
As a music/dance competition film, “Pitch Perfect” lazily follows the “Flashdance” formula all the way to the Big Win.
As a musical variation on cheerleader mean-girl flicks, “Pitch Perfect” is a yawn.
But “Pitch Perfect” really should not be classified as merely another dueling teens musical comedy.
“Pitch Perfect’s” signature lies in is its energetic girl power, a “Bridesmaids”-style tale centered on a lively ensemble of college coeds.
At its core, “Pitch Perfect” is a chick flick that champions its female sensibility without apology.
One lady is black and gay.
Another proudly proclaims herself Fat Amy.
The most voluptuous of the mix proudly admits she likes sex — on her terms.
The scriptwriter, Kay Cannon, is a Chicago comedienne who likes her jokes spicy and saucy.
The director, Jason Moore, was the creative force behind “Avenue Q,” an irreverent off-Broadway musical that has a cult following.
Together Cannon and Moore were not about to let this familiar teen genre fall asleep.
Instead, they pepper the dialogue with a sassy feminist spirit that’s both a lot of fun and a breath of fresh air.
The story is all too familiar.
Beca is off to college, reluctantly. She wants to produce music not go to school. But dad insists she attend the college where he teaches — it’s free! Score one for tuition remission.
Beca joins The Bellas, an all-female singing group. She joins in great part to pacify her dad who says if she joins an activity he’ll let her leave school after one year — and chase her music career.
The Bellas were runners-up at the national championships the year before, losing to the arrogant boys, The Troublemakers. This year will be the revenge-filled rematch.
And Beca is along for the ride, starting in the back row singing harmony.
But we know, by the end, she’ll be carrying the melody, front and center.
Oh, and of course there will be a romance along the way.
Once movies like this get past the foreplay, they all look alike. The underdogs claw their way to the title. Along the way, there are setbacks and hurt feelings.
Fast forward to the inevitable final performance where the judges’ jaws drop and victory is won. Ho hum.
“Pitch Perfect” knows the formula and packs in plenty of clichés.
At its worst, “Pitch Perfect” is as annoying as all the “Flashdance” clones. The scenes involving vomiting are bad enough to induce same.
But along the way the dialogue is lively.
Rebel Wilson, a comedienne from Australia who was memorable in “Bridesmaids,” is the source of much of the humor.
When someone asks her why she calls herself Fat Amy, she replies it’s to pre-empt attacks by annoying “twigs.” And so it goes.
The lead, Anna Kendrick, is also quite good blending a sweet spirit with dark shadows.
But the key to the success lies mostly in Cannon’s script. Listen carefully for dozens of wonderful throwaway lines.
If we step back for a second, we’ll realize that the new generation of chick flicks is taking charge of its own destiny.
Rather than simply catering to – or condescending to – female viewers, many such films are now embracing an irreverent, often ironic tone that empowers the actresses and the audience as well.
Fair warning to any guy who insults Fat Amy: He best be wearing a steel cup.
“I’m gonna finish you like a cheesecake,” says Amy.
The ladies don’t cry much in such feminist comedies. Instead, they counterattack and take control.
That’s a Copernican shift from such films even a decade ago. There have always been strong female characters in cinema, but the undercurrent of teen comedies has traditionally reflected society’s view of women as subservient and weak.
The Snow White formula of “Someday my prince will come” is still endlessly recycled.
More and more the lead women in modern comedy are defining their own lives and their futures.
They invite would-be princes (and princesses!) to run along side if they are able.
If they can’t keep up, chances are they were likely to turn into frogs anyway.
“Bridesmaids” was one such girlpower comedy and “Pitch Perfect” is another.
Such scripts understand that well-behaved women seldom make history.
The era of sassy screen heroines who proudly misbehave is upon us.