Human Echoes Rundown: Pitch Perfect

Lately I’ve been doing a little thought experiment about what would happen if someone built a machine that could, through some process, assign definitive objective merit to a work of art. How would society change if such a machine existed? Would we be surprised by how it scored things? Would we rebel against the machine and try to make art specifically tailored to earn a poor score? And could the machine in turn, see the genius in some of this anti-machine art and score it highly anyway?

Listen man, I don’t know. It’s just a thought experiment.

But in my mind (which is all that counts because this is a thought experiment after all) if such a machine existed it probably wouldn’t score Pitch Perfect very highly.

And you could easily justify that score. Because at its core Pitch Perfect is really a shallow and occasionally mean-spirited bit of fluff.

There’s very little plot to speak of. Scenes happen one after the other, but rarely do you get the idea that they’re connected to each other causally. The Bellas get together, they sing a few times, the argue about what to sing a bunch of times, and then they’re at the finals and the movie is over. There’s a romantic subplot with Anna Kendrick’s Beca and some guy, but it is possibly the laziest “date and then break-up for basically no reason just so we can get back together at the end” plot I’ve ever seen in a movie.

And then there’s the fact that Pitch Perfect doesn’t seem to like any of its characters. All the singers are portrayed either as hopeless nerds or over-obsessed control freaks (excepting Anna Kendrick, who of course doesn’t really care about singing well, she just stumbled into be amazing at it on her way to being something much cooler like a DJ). The mix is rounded out by a black person and a lesbian (who are one and the same person, so we can check off two minority bingo squares with one character!) and a girl whose only defining characteristic is that she likes to have a lot of sex.

But.

There is a reason we don’t let a machine tell us what movies are good and which ones are bad.

Because Pitch Perfect, for all of its obvious imperfections is a whole heck of a lot of fun. The humor isn’t particularly smart most of the time, but the delivery is impeccable, and while some of the jokes may not stick the landing you know there’s another one coming just around the corner.

And then there’s the singing. Obviously some of you out there take objection to that style of music, but from where I’m sitting the arrangements were both wildly entertaining and technically impressive.

The charms of Pitch Perfect are ultimately superficial, but they’re remarkable nonetheless.

All told Pitch Perfect is like a big ball of cotton candy. It has no nutritional value and it’s mostly empty, but you shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying it every once in a while.

 

Albert was born in the swamps of Florida and quickly developed a gripping writing style by wrestling with crocodiles. Albert is the author of The Mulch Pile and A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw.

To hear more of our thoughts on Pitch Perfect check out Episode 157 of the Human Echoes Podcast.

One thought on “Human Echoes Rundown: Pitch Perfect

  1. I was really interested to see what Al would make of Pitch Perfect – I kind of knew what Tony was going to say and in retrospect it was probably quite cruel of the podcast audience to suggest so many musicals – because his combination of enthusiasm and incisive intelligence cuts to the core of the film.

    There are elements of the film which you don’t catch until you’ve seen it twice. You can say that this is evidence of a weak structure, or you can say that the movie rewards repeat viewing, but you’re basically saying the same thing. The one element I thought was done well, and stood out clearly for me on viewing number one, was how the movie mocks ensemble cast “see how our outcast powers combine to create an unstoppable Voltron of worthy talent and self esteem!” films and TV shows. There is a very unsubtle dig at Glee (which Glee deserves), but the movie directly references the best of its kind: The Breakfast Club. It’s an odd little bit of ancestor worship, especially since The Breakfast Club is the superior film, but it’s nice to see. There’s a moment, towards the end, where they acknowledge the box ticking and reference the fact that there are two supporting characters who are only there for the crowd scenes. They get minimal dialogue and they aren’t even sure of their own names.

    The relationship between Beca and Jesse is interesting; it fails to launch, not just because a second act breakup adds a little drama, but because Beca is an ass. I’m pretty sure we’re not supposed to like her, even though she’s the character we spend the most time with. Beca is the cool person among nerds, singing with the group to demonstrate to her dad that she’s given college a go so he’ll fund her time in LA. She’s literally too cool for school. Her arc, from being ironically involved with the Bellas to being actually involved, is a “Go Team!” for people who are genuinely enthusiastic about what they do.

    Al nails the film, though, when he describes it as candyfloss. It’s fun, it’s lightweight, there’s more to it if you want to look hard but it’s perfectly rewarding on the surface and we’ll probably have forgotten all about it in five years’ time.

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