So the new trailer of Pitch Perfect 2 has come out recently and a lot of people talk about how excited they are because, “OOOH! The first Pitch Perfect was SOO GREAT!” … no… no it wasn’t. Pitch Perfect wasn’t that good. I did not like Pitch Perfect that much. I actually think it’s overrated.
“Aca-scuse me?” Aca-believe it.
This film came out in 2012, and most people had already seen Pitch Perfect, but if you haven’t, the story is this:
At Barden University, Aubrey (played by Anna Camp) and Chloe (played by Brittany Snow) were part of an all-female a cappella group named the Barden Bellas, which failed to win at a national competition after an incident where Aubrey vomited during their performance, so they desperately attempt to form a new team of girls. One of these girls, Beca (played by Anna Kendrick) aspires to become a professional DJ, but reluctantly joins because of her father’s insistence, and because Chloe notices her singing potential. They eventually assemble the new Barden Bellas, which includes Fat Amy (played by Rebel Wilson), and they train for the next national competition against the all-male rival group, the Treblemakers. However, Aubrey’s insistence on using traditional songs over modern music will be a problem, and it’s up to someone like Beca to mash things-up.
I never implied that this was a horrible film. I’d probably describe this film as half-good, as it’s definitely lacking. What it DOESN’T lack in is its music. The music in Pitch Perfect is amazing! Most of the songs the girls sing are sung live, and most of the songs were added on by the actors singing in the film, such as the famous cups song which Kendrick had originally learned from a viral video. The finale is especially a lot of fun to listen to, and it’s one of the highlights of the film. Even the traditional mash-up the Bellas originally use is actually pleasant to listen to, albeit not the best choice to use for the competition. This is REAL talent and craft on display, and they put in a lot of effort into it. For all the complaints I have for this film, the film succeeds in being fun and exciting with its music, like flipping through an iPod with a great playlist.
… But that’s about the only parts of the movie I care about: the songs, AND some funny scenes.
Some jokes were laugh out loud funny. Fat Amy is the funniest character in the film and had the biggest laughs out of me. She’s probably a fan favourite, and she was also my favourite character. And then there were some chuckles here and there with some other characters, but that’s pretty much it. Thankfully there wasn’t a lot of gross-out gags, but even some of those jokes come across as awkward, like the scene where the girls end up fighting, and the Asian girl falls into vomit (don’t ask) and randomly starts… eh… making vomit angels. But the rest of the humour is attributed to how soulless the rest of the characters were and how inconsistent and BAD the writing was.
Beca, our main character is supposed to be the one we relate to, but she ends up becoming such an unlikeable character most of the time. She’s often rude, ungrateful, and she acts like a complete know-it-all. One thing that irritated me was when she claimed that she doesn’t watch movies and then said, “I know the twist to Star Wars when Dark Vader turns out to be Luke’s father because Vader means ‘father’ in German. They gave away their own twist.” Well, 1. It’s kind of true: “vader” means “father” in DUTCH, but the German word for “father” I think is closer is pronunciation. 2. The line “I am your father” was AD-LIBBED! The makers of Star Wars didn’t even know Luke was Vader’s son until much later! Stop acting like you know everything, Beca!
It’s not enough to say that it’s “because her parents are divorced” or “because she’s introverted”. Believe it or not, The Last Song, a film which wasn’t very good, did this much better. The character Ronnie is very similar to Beca, but they at least go out of their way to explain how this character was affected by her parents’ divorce, and at the same time having us sympathise with her. As her rebellious nature is more of a coping mechanism, we see that she is indeed caring of all living things and is actually willing to change whenever she feels she wants to. We never get that with Beca’s character.
But that’s not the worst part of it: I DO sympathise with her whenever she speaks out against the leader of the Barden Bellas, and whenever she DOES try to make an effort to change her bad attitude in the end. However, those scenes still don’t make her other scenes any better, and most of those scenes work against her anyway. The scene where she gets into a fight to protect someone else and gets arrested? Her father misunderstands the situation, and she’s punished for it. The scenes where Aubrey is SO OBVIOUSLY wrong about the use of traditional songs, and Beca speaks against it, everyone’s too stupid to stand next to her, even when they SO OBVIOUSLY agree with her. In one scene, Beca is understandably angry at the Bellas, and ends up screaming at her friend Jesse when he steps in during the moment. But when Beca later genuinely apologises for the first time to Jesse, for NO REASON he doesn’t forgive her. In the end, Jesse forgives her during the finals because… she sings his favourite song… that’s ridiculous.
This is when the writing can’t decide whether to have us like Beca or hate Beca. Even though she’s meant to start out as a “lone-wolf” who’s meant to learn her lesson, there are various scenes where she’s just unlikeable and it’s hard for us to care about her journey. Not much to do with Anna Kendrick, since she has a fantastic voice and, though her acting’s been hit-and-miss, she was fine here. But by God is she a TERRIBLE choice to play Cinderella for Into the Woods. Completely miscast.
Another problematic character is Aubrey. She’s supposed to act all strict with her group about what songs they get to sing, but there is absolutely NO REASON for the girls to be intimidated by her other than “she’s strict” and NO REASON to stay on her side when Beca is the only one who stands up against her and breaks the rules. Her motivation is kind of understandable, since she was affected by the incident at the beginning of the film, and attempts to perform the same song until she gets it right, but she’s still unsympathetic for her actions. Also, if her strategy is not to stray from tradition, why perform the exact same routine over and over again during the competition? Wasn’t one time enough? Wouldn’t it make more sense to move on to other traditional songs? Wasn’t that the whole point? And if she so constrained to traditional songs, how is she familiar with songs like “Party in the USA” and “Just a Dream”? There is no consistency. And her performance is just annoying most of the time, like a weird caricature.
The other main problem I have is that they treat an a capella competition like a crazy-competitive sport: it’s like someone took a Bring It On script and decided to replace cheerleading with a capella singing. Since when are people this competitive in a music competition? No one treats a cappella THIS seriously. No one goes “you guys are losers and we’re gonna win” unless you’re in a 90s kids film or a sports film. Nowadays people say “You guys are really good! Good luck!” and it’s mostly a friendly competition with something like this. This just feels very formulaic and unnatural.
My last issue is that while we have the girls interact through singing and see them enjoy their music there, we rarely see them talk about their love for music, and what it feels to be singing together as a team. We see Beca, Jesse and other characters talk about why they personally love music in their own rights, but not between the Bellas themselves or why the rest of them want to do this in the first place. There are not enough scenes where we got to see them interact as friends, or made them feel like a true team other than the times they sang. Especially Chloe and Aubrey, surprisingly, the last remaining Bellas from the previous year. They lack chemistry and they don’t even feel like close friends, and that’s a HUGE problem.
I know Pitch Perfect is a popular film, and it’s certainly a film with the right amounts of energy, some good laughs, and at its core celebrates our love for music. The song numbers do not disappoint, and I’m sure the music will not disappoint in the sequel either. I just feel like the writing was very poor and could have used a lot more work. The plot was formulaic, the humour was inconsistent, and the characters could have been more sympathetic. It doesn’t feel like there’s something truly at stake, because it’s hard to care about what’s happening. But if you’re a fan of Pitch Perfect, then Pitch Perfect 2 might be worthwhile for you.