(L-R) Wanetah Walmsley, Shelley Regner, Ester Dean, Rebel Wilson, Alexis Knapp, Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Hana Mae Lee and Kelley Jakle in "Pitch Perfect"
Some films make you weep; others make you squirm. Then there are those that simply make you smile.
"Pitch Perfect" falls into the third category thanks to its strong script, charming cast and catchy soundtrack. The picture is a big-screen boon for the "Glee" crowd, and fans of last year's breakthrough hit "Bridesmaids" will appreciate a similar feminine energy in "Pitch" (though without the R rating).
Barden University's all-female a cappella group the Bellas blew its shot at winning the state championship when lead singer Aubrey (Anna Camp) lost her lunch on stage. The title went to the group's rivals, the all-male Treblemakers led by smug frontman Bumper (Adam DeVine of Comedy Central's "Workaholics"). Four months later, all that's left of the Bellas is Aubrey, and her BFF Chloe (Brittany Snow). The Bellas need some fresh blood, stat.
Enter Beca (star-on-the-rise Anna Kendrick of "Up in the Air" and "50/50"), a fiercely independent freshman who has more experience creating musical "mash-ups" on her laptop computer than singing a cappella. But when Chloe hears Beca belting out a tune in the ladies' locker room, she encourages her to join the group. Several others round out the Bellas' peculiar crew, none more notable than the riotous "Fat Amy" (Rebel Wilson of "Bridesmaids").
Conflicts arise when Aubrey's commitment to traditional songs threatens to sidetrack the Bellas' championship hopes yet again. And Aubrey doesn't take kindly to Beca's flirtation with Treblemakers member Jesse (Skylar Astin). The group needs to come together and get creative.
Big props to director Jason Moore (a 2004 Tony Award nominee for the Broadway musical "Avenue Q") for maintaining an upbeat atmosphere and getting the most from his talented cast. Kendrick is especially good, demonstrating both comedic and dramatic skills. Wilson virtually steals the show with her hilarious portrayal -- the Australian-born actress performs effortlessly and looks to be having a blast in the process. Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins entertain in their minor roles as commentators at the a cappella championships.
The modern music woven throughout (such as David Guetta's "Titanium") infuses the film with a vibrant, contagious energy. But there is a certain predictability to the plot, and the romantic dynamic between Beca and Jesse occasionally feels strained. Still, the quirky characters and clever dialogue help absolve other cinematic sins.
As 2012 rolls on, "Pitch Perfect" takes the baton as the feel-good movie of the year.
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, language and drug references. 1 hour, 52 minutes.
- Tyler Hanley