Film / Reviews

The mysterious appeal of bras, cleavage and singing teenagers in ‘Pitch Perfect’

by Kaori Shoji

Special To The Japan Times

‘Pitch Perfect” is a lively, likable movie. I’m not saying that out of a fear of sounding like a curmudgeonly granny who has to Google “peach slapped” to know what it means — but there’s always that risk.

The same description could be applied to “High School Musical,” TV series “Glee” and others. In fact, anything falls into this category that makes cinematic square footage out of teenagers and cleavage or cleavage and teenagers breaking into song and dance at the slightest provocation. All I’m saying is that one must proceed with caution with vehicles like these (not to mention covering up the embarrassment of having to look up “peach slapped”).

“Pitch Perfect” was released in the U.S. in 2012, and the sequel just came out there to huge box-office success, which is largely the reason the original is suddenly opening in Japan.

“Pitch Perfect” comes on to you like a cute date who tries way too hard from the get-go. This date is clueless about pulling back and acting frosty. This date thinks vomit jokes are hugely entertaining and will go through them one by one.

At times the film makes you recoil in disgust, but in the end you’re glad to have stayed through the whole thing. What’s life without such movies? Dark and old and curmudgeonly, that’s what.

Directed by Jason Moore, who had mainly worked in TV before taking on “Pitch Perfect,” the story — based on a novel of the same name by Mickey Rapkin — can be described as girl empowerment plus singing plus nerd heaven, all unfolding in the confines of a fictional American university called Barden.

Here, no one need ever step into a classroom or join the football team, or even date someone on the football team. Only one thing seems to matter at Barden: an all-girls a capella singing group called The Bellas. The boys’ group is called The Treblemakers and the two groups apparently hate each other despite constantly ogling each others’ bodies, clad in tight jeans and t-shirts. Between the singing (which is heavy on the high notes) and the perpetual ogling, “Pitch Perfect” also has hysteria and hormone issues — but that’s what it’s all about.

And there’s much fun to be had, thanks mainly to the presence of Anna Kendrick (“Into the Woods”) as Beca. She didn’t want a college education as she had plans to go to Los Angeles, but her father — who happens to teach at Barden — convinces her to “try it for a year,” and she caves to his pressure.

Beca has no plans to do anything radical like join a club — least of all The Bellas. But then she is heard singing in the shower and is recruited right away (a rip-off of the shower recruitment scene in “Glee”) by Chloe (Brittany Snow), who is The Bellas’ second-in-command, always on the lookout for fresh talent. It turns out Beca has a wonderful voice and an even more wonderful ear for music, and she’s gradually stoked by the prospect of changing The Bellas from a so-so singing club into a national a cappella contender. Kendrick is now Hollywood’s go-to musical actress by way of her successes on Broadway, so she’s right in her element.

If only “Pitch Perfect” had left it at that. But no, Jason Moore and Co. forge into teenage-antics territory, which more often than not overwhelms or, rather, puts a chokehold on the music. Enter Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy, who chooses to call herself that because otherwise people would “say it behind my back.” Fat Amy is hilarious and sports a rousing Aussie accent that energizes the whole package, but she’s often self-abusive and that’s not great. Even less so are the scenes where vomit is strewn about, as if regurgitation was part of the freshman curriculum. (In fact, maybe it is.)

On the plus side, bulges notwithstanding, Amy joins in The Bellas’ endless flaunting of bras and cleavage while the girls sing their hearts out. See? I told you it was likable.