Title: Pitch Perfect (2012) and Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)
Genres: Musical comedy, Romance, Coming-of-age
Director: Jason Moore (#1), Elizabeth Banks (#2)
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld (#2)
Rating: 3.5 stars
The film centers on fictional Barden University’s all-girl a capella group, The Barden Bellas. In the first film, the group starts the year with the attempt to thrive at Nationals 2011, after previous year’s disastrous event. The protagonist and one of the new recruits is Beca, an aspiring DJ who, at first reluctant to join the singing group, discovers her passion for a capella and becomes a valuable asset in this competition. In the sequel, The Bellas aim for a higher challenge: winning an International competition that no American team has ever won, motivated by numerous humiliating incidents (the first being in front of the President).
Like all college students, The Bellas also undergo challenges that ‘make them who they are’. The bond, discipline and creativity of maintaining an a capella group demonstrate the importance of acceptance, diversity, priorities and relationships.
Acceptance: Beca arrives at Barden University as this mysterious, antisocial girl who is at first rebellious of her father’s wishes for her to attend college instead of letting her pursue DJing full-time. As the rebellious girl that she is, Beca turns down all opportunities that her father would want her to open up to as a college student, but when she gets accepted in The Bellas, her role and personality switches. The sense of unity and bond that The Bellas must have to become better at what they do changes Beca (and the others’) mindset, shifting their focus away from their individual whines and towards a common goal for the benefit of the ‘greater good’. Eventually, Beca starts opening herself up to other people and opportunities as well.
Diversity: The a capella group was previously basically a group for skinny hot girls who could sing; but this time, girls of all body sizes, backgrounds and interests get recruited to this group. This evolutionizes the meaning and image of The Bellas, which proves to be beneficial at the end.
Characters & Acting
Normal, hysterical, weird and comical characters are the main focus of the films. Some of the main cast include:
- Beca is, of course, the girl that we can all relate to at some point in our lives. Being a strong asset in the group, she becomes the leader in the second film.
- Aubrey (the leader of The Bellas in the first film) is that uptight perfectionist that learns the hard way that things don’t always have to go as planned.
- Chloe, co-leader of The Bellas, is one of the few sane individuals that is able to prevent other characters from ripping each other’s heads off. She’s the one that begged Beca to join The Bellas, and she’s that loyal, supportive friend that ‘we all need’ in our lives.
- Patricia “Fat Amy”, the absolutely insane character whose purpose in the film is to be ‘comical’ and enable the audience to realize that the un-normal can be ‘normal’ if we want it to be. Her outgoing, instinctive and unembarrassed personality enable her to make rash decisions that turn out to be… fine, surprisingly.
- Jesse, the main male character, joins the Barden Treblemakers at the same times Beca joins her a capella group, and is another sane character whom Beca comes to accept into her life.
- Emily, newest Bella member (in the second film) whose confident aspirations to become a Bella and a songwriter enable her to succeed by the end of the film. As daughter of a previous Bella, her presence enables the rest of the group to realize the importance of the Belle legacy, and the eternal bond that they will always share.
Besides the diversity of the characters, we are also shown different a capella groups, including
- The Treblemakers: Another Barden a capella group, but all-boys.
- Das Sound Machine: A German exotic a capella group that becomes The Bellas’ main rival in the second film.
- There were other groups (whose names I don’t remember) that were made up of adults, country boys, etc.
I feel it’s worth mentioning the distinct a capella groups that appeared in the series, as they show how being bonded to a group with the same goal can make you into a a more ‘defined’ and more confident individual, and vice versa.
I felt the film tried a bit too hard to make the characters as diverse (ethnically, socially, intellectually) as possible, which makes the film a lot more cheesier than it already was. This was probably more due to the slightly banal plot, and not as much about the cast’s acting. I also felt that the film moved too fast; the film did show the struggles and progress that the characters made – both individually and collectively – but as the problems were more about the emotional struggles of the characters, their progress as an a capella group was not exactly that clear.
As for the musical part of the film, the covers were great and appropriate, of course. Some were mainstream, but most of the complete presentations that the groups gave were mashups of a combination of songs, which made them even more interesting.
While researching for this review, I discovered that the first film is loosely based on a non-fiction novel of the same name. (Has anyone read it?) A third film is supposed to come out next year, which I don’t really know what to expect as it would move from a college setting to a real-life adult one, unless they want to get rid of the old protagonists and replace them with new ones (in which case the third film would be almost completely unrelated to the first 2).