TO outward appearances, it may look like a college musical comedy or an a cappella variant of the competitive cheerleader movie Bring It On.
But Pitch Perfect is actually the first movie out of the gate to cash in on the surprise success of last year's rude girl comedy Bridesmaids.
There's a stumbling romantic relationship somewhere in here, but as in Bridesmaids, the true emphasis is on a tangly group of women who must put aside their differences if they are going to achieve success. And in keeping with the refreshingly rude tone of Kristen Wiig's comedy, there are also jokes about vomit, promiscuity and large nipples.
Beca (Anna Kendrick) is a would-be music producer who has promised her college professor dad a year of study in exchange for his sponsoring an attempt to launch her music career in Los Angeles. But to do that, she must join at least one extra-curricular club, and she stumbles into the a cappella group The Bellas after team lieutenant Chloe (Brittany Snow) subjects her to an embarrassing vocal audition in the college's shower room.
Beca joins other outcast girls including one who calls herself Fat Amy (Bridesmaids' Rebel Wilson) "so twiggy bitches like you don't do it behind my back," as well as a nearly silent Asian songstress (Hana Mae Lee) given to whispering disturbing confessions: "I set fires to feel joy."
But the imperious leader of the pack is Aubrey (Anna Camp), the alpha-harpy who insists on a set list of sugary pop songs and a wardrobe suggesting sexy '60s stewardesses. She is also the woman who blew the previous year's championship with an unseemly bout of projectile vomiting in mid-performance, losing the title to the college's obnoxious all-male arch-rivals the Treble Makers. Will history repeat itself?
While Kendrick happens to be an excellent singer, she doesn't display much in the way of comic chops, acting as straight-woman to pretty much everyone else in the cast. She's not terribly sympathetic compared to, say, Fat Amy, who actually wins loyalty with her displays of courage and humour. (It's reminiscent of how Melissa McCarthy almost stole Bridesmaids from Wiig, come to think of it.)
The musical performances are well-produced and fun, however, giving Pitch Perfect the added kick of any Hollywood musical -- albeit one with jokes about vomit, promiscuity and large nipples.
Starring Anna Kendrick
2 1/2 stars out of five