DVD review: Pitch Perfect

(M) ****

Director: Jason Moore.

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, Adam DeVine, Brittany Snow.

IF you'd dismissed this college comedy about rival vocal groups as some kind of lame Glee cash-in, think again.

Pitch Perfect is actually one of the funniest movies of 2012. It's a wild blend of often surprising comedy, some pretty cool a cappella arrangements, and a great ensemble cast.

Best of all, thanks to a smart script, it dodges the majority of mawkish moments that would have led to this being a typical college-based rom-com with a musical backdrop.

Kendrick stars as Beca, the music-loving freshman who is only attending college to appease her father and is more interested in making DJ mixes and mashups.

With no desire to fit in to life on campus, she's eventually convinced to join the all-girl a cappella group The Bellas (after being overheard singing in the shower), who are desperate for revenge in the national a cappella championships against the highly acclaimed all-boy group The Treblemakers.

On paper, this all looks oh-so High School Musical: The College Years, but the beauty of Pitch Perfect is they way it turns its formulaic moments into unexpected hilarity. There is a welcome edginess to its humour, so the potentially silly shower-singing scene suddenly becomes awkwardly amusing, while characters such as Fat Amy (a never funnier Rebel Wilson) and the almost-inaudible Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) drop in with excellent non-sequiturs, put-downs and wisecracks.

Even token characters - the bitchy lead Bella, the douchebag head Treblemaker, the nerdy magician - feel more than tokenistic thanks to an overall attitude that puts an alternative spin on some mainstream ideas. The film even borrows the "wacky commentator" schtick from the likes of Dodgeball, Best In Show or Baseketball, and does it really well.

Beca is a great character and Kendrick nails the role. She's social but only to a point, independent but often frustratingly so, and restrained despite her determined attitude. It all makes for an engaging and well-rounded female lead - a refreshing relief amid so many films led by cliched manic pixie dream girls, tightly wound workaholics, or the damaged party girl.

Kendrick has good chemistry with Astin, who plays a Treblemaker with a crush on Beca, while the blend and bounce within the Bellas makes for good entertainment.

One of the few downsides is it's a little too "pitch perfect" - ie. some of the "spur of the moment" sing-offs are unbelievably over-produced and miraculously arranged, occasionally giving the movie the feel of a proper musical, rather than just a musically inclined comedy.

The film also can't help but do the expected when it comes to the crunch, but the laughs along the way make this well worth it, and you'll find yourself craving the satisfying ending after such an enjoyable journey.

Along with The Muppets, Pitch Perfect is one of the best comedies of last year.

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