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posted: 9/27/2012 5:00 AM

'Perfect' pitches a delightful musical campus comedy

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  • Beca (Anna Kendrick), top center, leads the Bellas' a cappella singing group in Jason Moore's punchy, funny musical comedy "Pitch Perfect."

      Beca (Anna Kendrick), top center, leads the Bellas' a cappella singing group in Jason Moore's punchy, funny musical comedy "Pitch Perfect."

  • Video: "Pitch Perfect" trailer

 
 

The moment we hear an a cappella version of the Universal Studios fanfare during its famous introductory logo, we Gleefully surrender to the charm and musicality of this delightful collegiate comedy.

"Pitch Perfect" doesn't need much of a plot. It follows in the great tradition of American musicals where the songs become the raison d'Ítre. The characters and story merely connect the numbers together in some coherent fashion.

"Pitch Perfect" appears to have been inspired by the smash hit "Bridesmaids." It also follows young women as they struggle to bond and find common ground. Meanwhile, uncontrollable, gross bodily discharges induce shocked laughter. Hey, it works.

It works because of the focused, crisp and punchy direction of feature newcomer Jason Moore, who brought the same snappy energy to the Tony-winning best musical "Avenue Q."

It works because the superb cast of young, attractive performers reeks with charisma and salubrious sexuality.

And it works because the a cappella numbers sound so heavenly harmonious and perfectly pristine that you want to run out after the movie and join a choir.

Anna Kendrick (in the current gritty cop drama "End of Watch") stars as Beca, a confused freshman at Barden University. She wants to be a deejay but her professor dad has bigger plans for her.

One day in the shower, Beca cuts loose with a few bars, prompting red-haired bombshell Chloe (Brittany Snow) to invade her space and make a pitch for Beca to join the campus' singing group, the Bellas.

The Bellas are headed by extremely blonde, control-freak Aubrey (Anna Camp), who, as we discover, has a tendency, when stressed, to give Linda Blair a run for her money in long-distance projectile regurgitation.

Aubrey wants to win the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella and will do anything to succeed.

But the all-male Treblemakers stand in her way, led by the extremely obnoxious Bumper (Adam DeVine, emanating Jack Black's egocentric comic stylings).

Aubrey assembles her diversely PC vocal avengers: Chloe, Beca, sassy Fat Amy ("Bridesmaids" star Rebel Wilson), oversexed Stacie (Alexis Knapp), slightly butch Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) and timidly quiet Lilly (Hana Mae Lee).

Quickly, the lines are drawn between Aubrey, who wants to stick to a traditional set of songs, and Beca, who pushes the Bellas to take risks and push the musical envelope.

The obligatory romantic subplot is handled nicely by Beca and Jesse (Skylar Astin, cast for his John Cusack-like appeal), who dreams of composing scores to movies like "Jaws," "E.T." and "Star Wars."

Jesse is a genuinely sweet young man who tolerates his super-nerdy magician roommate (Ben Platt). Jesse would be perfect -- if he weren't one of the despised Treblemakers!

"Pitch Perfect" comes equipped with its own Greek chorus, a droll, hilariously abusive duo of off-color commentators wonderfully underplayed by Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins.

He doesn't think women should be doctors. She reminisces about her a cappella group, the Minstrel Cycles.

Kay Cannon riddles her screenplay, based on Mickey Rapkin's book, with lean and witty dialogue. She even gets away with pun-ishing humor such as Aubrey's exclamation, "Acca-'scuse me?"

It's unfortunate that Cannon undermines her good work by overusing the verbal crutch "awesome," as in "It is awesome!" "This is awesome!" "That's awesome!" "That's really awesome!" "You girls are awesome!" And the capper: "Acca-awesome!"

"Pitch Perfect" also suffers from a minor disconnect when rebel Beca risks everything by daring to present an a cappella version of "Don't You (Forget About Me)" by the Simple Minds.

That's it? One of the most played-to-death songs on oldies radio stations? Really?

That's hardly singing outside of the box.

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