It sounds like warmed-over Glee. OK, Glee itself is now warmed-over Glee. But I got a goofball kick out of Pitch Perfect. This spoofy, sassy romp presents us with a cappella rivalry on the fictional campus of Barden U and hits an above-average share of hilarious high notes. At Barden, an all-male-all-piggish group called the Treblemakers wins all the prizes at sectionals, regionals, etc. That means Siberia for the Barden Bellas, an all-girl group led by the tightly-wound Aubrey (Anna Camp), who never tires of working tired variations on “Turn the Beat Around” or adding an “aca” to every phrase, as in aca-awesome, which gets to be kind of aca-eww. The Bellas need a shakeup, and it comes with the arrival of smartass, stand-offish Beca (Anna Kendrick), a freshman whose skeptical squint is aimed at a career being a DJ and music producer.
Kendrick is terrific, taking a role that could have slid by on snide and building it into something uniquely funny and touching. Beca is too cool for this school of estrogen-fueled sellouts. But she figures she can bore away from the inside, with the help of some recruits, including black lesbian belter Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean), whispery Asian flower Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), and the self-named Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson). I have one word for Wilson – Wow! From Bridesmaids to Bachelorette, Wilson has been tearing it up on screen. And the way she can twist even a cliched comic line to do her bidding is delectable. The script by Kay Cannon, of 30 Rock and New Girl, has zing to spare. Two judges, played by John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks, take a cue from Best in Show and drop a steady stream of snark balloons that stop gushy sentiment from spoiling the fun. And first-time feature director Jason Moore, best known for Broadway’s Avenue Q, keeps the script in harmony with the songs as Beca mashes up the Bellas’ music into something retro and right now. Beca breaks the Bella rule against cross-pollination by falling for Jesse (Skylar Astin), a Treblemaker with a jones for The Breakfast Club and the Simple Minds song, “Don’t You Forget About Me,” that ends that John Hughes teen landmark. Pitch Perfect is too Auto-tuned and Hollywood fabricated to reach that level. But it’s still an aca-fun ride, and you can dance to it.