"This number is like an elephant dart to the public's face."
Back in 2002 a little thing called AMERICAN IDOL aired on US televisions, highlighting the supposed best and worst singers that America had to offer. I'll admit to succumbing to the craze initially--more so to catch the bad and flat-out crazy ones, they being a human trainwreck of awful tones and too much self-confidence. Idol as we all know morphed into an overnight juggernaut (38-million viewers at the pinnacle of its power), later spawning a variety of mimickers* (AMERICA'S GOT TALENT, X-FACTOR, ROCK STAR, NASHVILLE STAR, THE VOICE) and countless spinoffs from all around the world. Arab Idol, anyone?
*I realize that POP IDOL seems to be the first incarnation of this musical monstrosity, as it aired in England in 2001. Due to the enormous numbers stateside though, it's safe to say that the US version and its fanatical fans were behind the surge that is only now starting to subside. Case in point: my friend Katie voted for her favorite finalist 40 plus times to ensure victory. Not only that, but the success of Idol also completely flipped the network battle on its head, allowing the Fox Broadcasting Company to rule the key 18-49 demographic for seven consecutive years.
You can trace PITCH PERFECT's roots only a few years back to Ryan Murphy's GLEE. Replace Ohio with Georgia, and high school with college and it's essentially a mirror image. The film begins with Beca (Anna Kendrick), an aspiring DJ walking on campus, having being forced to attend by her father. She's approached by Aubrey and Chloe (Anna Camp and a smokin' red-headed Brittany Snow), two remaining members of the Barden Bellas, an all-girl acapella group. After the obligatory (albeit funny) audition montage of would-be members, the Bellas troupe is finalized. The group is as you can imagine is an eclectic mix. A misunderstood lesbian with a gambling problem, an obese Australian, and a nymphomaniac, among others. My favorite was Lily Onakuramura, an Asian low-talker who spouts hard-to-hear wisdom like, "I set fires to feel joy" and "I ate my twin in the womb." She also loves to make vomit angels.
PERFECT follows a familiar pattern. Beca falls for a member of the Treblemakers, a rival ensemble; the Bellas face adversity; Beca attempts to truly find herself. You get the idea. The enjoyment doesn't really come from the story itself. There are some actual spirited numbers, especially when a few songs are mixed together. (Also, anytime 'No Diggity' gets some airtime, it's a good day.) The real draws are the individual performances. Kendrick is fine once again. She always seems to play straight-laced-no-nonsense whether she's portraying a shrink, a firing specialist, or a college student, which can get boring after a while. This is why having Rebel Wilson around is such a revelation.
Wilson can do the simplest thing onscreen and I'm still in tears. Chris Farley had the same effect on me, although his comedy was much more abrasive and in-your-face, while somehow still being naïve and lovable. Wilson is...I don't know. It's her size, or her accent, or maybe she's just hilarious. She can just pat her tummy, or have a look of complete anguish on her face, and that's all she needs. The perfect blend of boisterousness and innocence. She's absolutely killed it in supporting roles she's been given. Farley was able to maintain his schtick with much longer screentime. Wilson will eventually have that opportunity, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she's able to do with it.
PITCH PERFECT is pretty harmless, like sugar-free candy. It wants to entertain, and it does so sparingly. If you're a fan of pop music, this will be your bag. Honestly, the film seems to have arrived a little late to the party. Presently, we're being completely saturated by reality television talent (and I use that term loosely), that the general public is perhaps starting to grow numb to the whole following. If you've seen one woman pop her eyes out, you've seen them all. AMERICAN IDOL just debuted its 12th season to the lowest ratings its encountered since their premiere. Sometime shortly, there will be a time when the song and dance routines will be relegated to a thing of the past, joining boy bands and actually funny sitcoms on the bench. Inevitably though, something new will fill our displays, allowing the newest fad to take root in our ever-ready collectives.