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It’s hard to imagine anyone outside of dug-in curmudgeons not being swept up in the musical rush of Pitch Perfect. Even those with no interest in the world of collegiate a cappella competitions—or no idea that such a world existed—are likely to respond to the movie’s many pleasures.
Reliable sweetheart Anna Kendrick is the star, playing Beca, an alt-pop girl feeling like an outsider in her freshman year at Barden University. When she’s recruited by the Bellas, an all-female a cappella group led by prissy musical martinet Aubrey (Anna Camp, of The Help), she begins to bond with the other new members, all of them outcasts, too. There’s Stacie (Alexis Knapp), a hottie with chops, and Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), a girl so whispery-shy that no one can make out what she’s saying (the Bellas were desperate to round out their lineup). And best of all, there’s proudly chubby Rebel Wilson (the Australian wonder of Bridesmaids and Bachelorette) as Fat Amy—who tells the svelte Aubrey that she calls herself that “so you twig bitches won’t say it behind my back.”
There’s a requisite romance, of course—Beca has caught the eye of nice-guy Jesse (Skylar Astin, of the stage hit Spring Awakening), who has just joined the Treblemakers, the campus a cappella champs. This all-guy group, lead by a braying buffoon called Bumper (Adam DeVine), aced the Bellas at last year’s national finals after Aubrey had the misfortune of throwing up onstage. Now, determined to put that fiasco behind her, she’s whipping her new girls into top trophy-winning shape.
The movie’s foremost virtue is its intent focus on the performances. The actors do their own singing (with only a few discrete soundtrack assists), and the songs are smartly divided between old pop tunes (by Ace of Bass, Salt-n-Pepa, Vicki Sue Robinson) and newer hits (by David Guetta, Rihanna, and Flo Rida). The director, Broadway veteran Jason Moore, here shooting his first feature, puts his camera right inside the complex stage choreography; and the intricate vocal arrangements (by Deke Sharon, Ed Boyer, and Tom Kitt) give these scenes an electrifying lift. Pitch Perfect is a celebration of unaccompanied voices raised in harmony. It’s the best kind of movie musical—a movie that really is all about the music.