x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Pitch Perfect

An edgy take on a well-worn topic, this musical caper stands out for the solid performances of its cast, led by Anna Kendrick.

Anna Kendrick shines in the musical film Pitch Perfect. Courtesy Universal Pictures
Anna Kendrick shines in the musical film Pitch Perfect. Courtesy Universal Pictures

Director: Jason Moore
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson
***

Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the TV phenomenon Glee, this would-be college version for the big screen largely succeeds thanks to a standout performance from Anna Kendrick. Best known for myriad supporting roles, the diminutive star appears here to have finally broken through into the leading actress stakes. One imagines her phone is ringing louder than ever.

Kendrick – best known as George Clooney’s cute, Oscar-nominated co-star for 2009’s Up in the Air – fits the loner character Beca like a glove.

Sent begrudgingly to an a cappella performance school for odd bods by her father, she’s soon hiding -behind her -laptop, mashing up tunes as a would-be DJ. A volunteer spot at the campus radio station suggests her ambition will be swiftly fuelled.

Matters soon shift, however, when she comes across the self-professed “Fat Amy” (the rising Australian star Rebel Wilson), then gives in to the advances of Jesse (Skylar Astin). Before long, the Bellas – the all-girl singing troupe she initially rejected – want her on side. A rather nifty version of the viral video hit, You’re Gonna Miss Me, complete with cup routine, seals Beca’s fate for the school comp.

Although her supporting cast all put in solid performances, this is without doubt Kendrick’s film. A musical protégé herself – she was a Broadway, Tony-winning star by the time she hit her teens – she can seemingly do this stuff standing on her head. A genuinely droll, self--deprecating sense of humour doesn’t hurt her on-screen presence, either.

Wilson is also worthy of note and not simply because she seems to be everywhere at the moment. A neat nod to her full-figured shape only heightens her appeal, particularly among the misfits who help make up the college they’re at. Without her (and Kendrick), Pitch Perfect would simply feel like a lesser Glee. Instead, it offers an edgier take on a -familiar topic.

The film – which, ultimately, plays out like a musical take on the 2000 cheerleader yarn Bring It On, is unlikely to convert those who loathe musical set pieces (and Glee, for that matter), but it will surely cement Kendrick’s painstaking work over the past few years. At 27, she’s more than ready to assume leading actor status full time. If this – and her other current films, including the Los Angeles police drama End of Watch – resonate with audiences, we’re likely to see even more of her. And that’s not a bad thing.