"Pitch Perfect" is a frothy, funny, dizzy and derivative farce set in the competitive world of college a cappella groups. It's "Glee" without the soap opera or the sex, but stuffed with comic caricatures, hilarious one-liners and blessed with a cast that's up to a little song-and-dance.
Sweet little Anna Kendrick, usually cast as too-young /in-over-her-head ("Up in the Air," "What to Expect When You're Expecting") plays the cynical, rebellious would-be DJ and record producer who heads to Barden College at her dad's insistence.
That's where she hooks up with the Barden Bellas, a hyper-competitive chorus that lives for the chance to take down a cappella's national collegiate champs, the frat-boyish nerds of Treble Makers.
The Bellas don sexy stewardess uniforms -- circa 1966 -- and sing dated pop tunes in close harmony set to fetching choreography. Imperious Aubrey (Anna Camp) and perky Chloe (Brittany Snow) run the skinny-girls-on-parade show.
But this year's version of The Bellas has a black lesbian belter (Ester Dean), an oversexed bombshell (Alexis Knapp), a disturbed, whisper-voiced Asian coed (comic Hana Mae Lee) and Fat Amy, a big, blowsy Tasmanian devil with "an Orthodox Jew pony-tail" rendered in boisterous strokes by Rebel Wilson.
Beca (Kendrick), borderline Goth girl, fan of hip hop and mistress of her own remixes, doesn't exactly fit in with these misfits.
There are auditions, rehearsals (done in goofy, well-cut montages), contests and a riff-off, where the various groups spontaneously tear through the modern pop catalog, from Kelly Clarkson to Bruno Mars.
The "big contest" formula means that this is a lot like every recent music or dance film.
But it's not the plot or even the singing that sells "Pitch Perfect." Writer Kay Cannon and her cast pepper this thing with zingers. Wilson, of "Bridesmaids" and "Bachelorette," lands a laugh every time she opens her mouth.
The villainous singer Bumper (Adam DeVine) may get sued for ripping off Jack Black's shtick and demeanor, but Kendrick never lets Beca become a "rebel girl" cliche. And Rebel Wilson never lets "Pitch Perfect" go more than a few bars between laughs.
As pieced-together-by-committee as this sometimes feels, "Perfect" is never off-key.
"Pitch Perfect" (3½ stars)
A "Glee" derivative that is hilarious from start to finish, even with a few rough patches. The women in the cast are strong and defy cliches, especially Anna Kendrick as Becca, the central character, and Rebel Wilson, as Fat Amy, who steals every scene she's in. With Brittany Snow, Skylar Austin, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks.
Rated: PG-13 for sexual material, language, drug references.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Pacific Place, Thorton Place.
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