Pitch Perfect is a spirited crowd-pleaser that successfully taps into the popularity of a cappella groups and musical competitions. Although the trope of a talented loner who reluctantly joins a tightly knit group is a familiar one, the film is filled with enough unbridled enthusiasm and heart to forgive its conventionality. Director Jason Moore, best known for helming Broadway's Avenue Q, finds the right balance between the high-energy musical performances and the quieter moments.
The movie opens on the previous year's national a cappella finals. The Treblemakers (an all-male group) perform a dynamic, captivating number to win the competition, while the Bellas (an all-female group hailing from the same college as the Treblemakers) suffer an embarrassing incident on-stage.
We then flash-forward to the present day and are introduced to protagonist Beca (Anna Kendrick), who makes mashup songs on her laptop and longs to work in the music biz in Los Angeles. She's reluctantly attending Barden University, but hasn't made an effort to find any friends. Her father makes her a deal: If she joins one activity on campus, he will help her move to L.A. at the end of the year.
At the auditions for the a cappella groups, a wide array of amusing characters take their best shot at singing Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone." Bella leader Aubrey (Anna Camp) and her sidekick Chloe (Brittany Snow) realize that no one fits "the look" they're aiming for, and they will need to adjust their standards if they want a shot at winning nationals. The new Bella recruits include Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), soft talker Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), and Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean), who is initially mistaken for a man. The final member of the Bellas turns out to be Beca, who decides to audition after Chloe overhears her singing in the shower. The ladies soon discover that joining the Bellas is a lot like pledging a sorority -- all of the new members are given special scarves, are forced to take an oath, and are threatened with expulsion if any of them hook up with a Treblemaker.
The Bellas' road to the national competition is full of amusing rehearsals, a cappella battles at the bottom of an empty swimming pool, and internal squabbles over old-fashioned song choices. Meanwhile, Beca's personal life begins to blossom. She and Jesse (Skylar Astin), her co-worker at the college radio station and -- GASP! -- a Treblemaker, bond over their future aspirations and mutual love of music. Jesse wants to be a film composer, and he introduces her to one of his favorite movies, The Breakfast Club.
Based on Mickey Rapkin's nonfiction book of the same name, Pitch Perfect is successful at creating a world in which being a member of an a cappella group is the coolest thing on campus. Screenwriter Kay Cannon (30 Rock, New Girl) provides a lot of sassy dialogue and funny setups, but unfortunately, the story is populated with one-dimensional characters. Fat Amy, played by scene-stealer Rebel Wilson, is absolutely hilarious, but her character development is limited to her explaining that she calls herself Fat Amy because it's what people refer to her as behind her back. And Aubrey, the uptight, beautiful leader of the Bellas, could have benefited from a moment where she reveals another side of herself to the audience. The film feels a bit too long and repetitive, but the abundance of catchy songs and enjoyable moments will be enough to keep its target audience entertained during the almost-two-hour run time.