Sometimes movies are all about timing and a prime example of that was the release and success of Pitch Perfect back in 2012. The film was released in the wake of the success of Glee, which brought singing competitions and teen angst to the mainstream when it exploded out of the gate in 2009. The popularity of Glee was peaking in 2012 and Pitch Perfect struck right in the middle of that peak. The film was a surprise hit, grossing $65 million domestically and $115 million worldwide (all on a $17 million budget) but its impact on pop culture would be felt long after it left theaters.
The film became even bigger when it hit the home release and its soundtrack sold 1.2 million copies in a day and age when soundtracks just don’t do business like that anymore. The soundtrack proved to be so popular that it even produced a top 6 single with Anna Kendrick’s cover of “Cups” (When I’m Gone)”. That single alone sold 2.5 million digital downloads.
Looking back on it, it’s easy to see why Pitch Perfect struck a chord. It’s an easy and breezy comedy that features fun songs but it’s most engaging selling point is the infectious chemistry of its cast. There are cliches to be found for sure, but the cast elevates the material and allows Pitch Perfect to continue to be a film that is never dull to watch.
The plot revolves around the rivalry between two a cappella groups at Barden University: the all-male Treblemakers and the all-female Barden Bellas. The Bellas are the perennial also-rans and 2012 looks to be no different until the addition of several new members – loner Beca (Anna Kendrick), oversexed Stacie (Alexis Knapp), flamboyant Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), and scary Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) – shakes things up. But the Treblemakers get better as well by adding incoming freshman Jesse (Skylar Astin). Meanwhile, the leader of the Bellas, Aubrey (Anna Camp), is unimpressed by Beca’s ideas about how to modernize their routines, even though Beca has the support of Aubrey’s best friend, Chloe (Brittany Snow). Meanwhile, Jesse romances Beca, and her initial opposition to a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship melts.
The Glee influence, although never really publicly mentioned, is largely felt throughout the film. There is an earnestness that was prevalent on that show that shows up in spades in Pitch Perfect. This is by no means a detriment. Sometimes you need a show or movie that has its heart in the right place and taps into certain feelings to engage its audience. Much like when Glee was at its peak, Pitch Perfect is always fun. The songs are instantly infectious and the energy of the performances is felt throughout. I can recall seeing the riff-off that features “No Diggity” for the first time in theaters and the audience actually sang and clapped along. That is when you know a musical in any fashion is making an impact. If it can make you forget you’re sitting in a crowded theater and participate like it’s a live show, that’s saying something.
Putting Pitch Perfect over the edge is its cast. Every cast member gets a moment to shine which actually makes this a true ensemble piece. Leading the pack is Anna Kendrick who was on the fast track at the time due to her Oscar nomination for Up In The Air. Kendrick is easily accessible and she has a quality that makes you feel like you could know her. A few actresses have this ability (Sandra Bullock, Emma Stone, and Jennifer Lawrence also possess this trait in roles) but Kendrick has truly made it her bread and butter. She’s likable in all the best ways and she is strong enough to lead the cast. At the time Rebel Wilson was also breaking out due to memorable roles in Bridesmaids and Bachelorette and she solidified herself as one to watch in this film. Some say her schtick is tired but I still find it highly amusing and there is no denying that she steals her handful of scenes. The other Bellas which consist of Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Ester Dean, Alexis Knapp, and Hana Mae Lee, round out a wonderful cast that shows the power of cast chemistry. On the male side of things, Skylar Austin makes us guys wish we could sing and somehow swoon the likes of Anna Kendrick while Ben Platt gets some solid moments as the nerdy and shy, Benji.
Deserving of their own paragraph are Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins who steal the show with their play-by-play commentary of the singing competition as commentators Gail and John. The most amusing lines of the film come from these two and it represents the epitome of comic timing. Even if you’re not one to dig the more musical aspects of the film, these two make the movie worthy of at least a glance.
This film actually celebrated its 5th anniversary this year and it’s crazy to think that it was actually that long ago. It would be easy to dismiss Pitch Perfect as a passing fad that captivated its young adult audience in the moment but it has certainly stood up over time and is still one fun movie to watch.