Pitch Perfect will be an off-key hit for summer

Pitch Perfect (M)

BEING part of a school choir was once limited to a select few, those who wanted to really strengthen their singing abilities and be part of a non-contact team effort. It wasn't cool to most, but the popularity of student singing competitions had a turnaround to go on to reach those with different ideas.

Entering the new millennium, musical styles changed. Rap became steadily mainstream with the likes of 50 Cent and Eminem; Pink had a problem with their style but gave her own attitude. Then a few years later came a television show that arguably revolutionised the musical for the new age.

Glee is a love-it-or-hate-it program where the characters will break out into song to carry the story several times over any given episode. The loose adaptation of Mickey Rapkin's novel offers none of that, but the material still draws from Glee's success at making something once judged cool.

It does manage to separate itself though, insisting that joining one of Barden University's a cappella clubs is not about discovering your sexuality or working through other differences. That was high school; this is "the real world".

Beca (Anna Kendrick) knows how different styles of music mesh and blend, but puts her dream of scoring a record deal as a DJ on hold to try out getting a tertiary education for her father's sake. She soon joins the Barden Bellas after being hounded by Chloe (Brittany Snow); the reveal of her good singing voice mixed with a group desperate for members makes for an easy story progression.

Her relationship with new Treble Makers member Jesse (Skylar Astin) is not as clear-cut in figuring out. The rivalry between their a cappella teams doesn't help, particularly creating uneasy tension from Bellas' leader Aubrey (Anna Camp) on the rest of the group as they focus for regional and then final competition.

It's a new, scary universe for Beca, who before the Bellas shut everyone out from her life. If high school had taught her how to survive, university definitely loosens her up. It's hard to avoid when surrounded by other misfits including Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), whose honest nature precedes any underlying issues.

With a cast of relative unknowns, Jason Moore in his first feature as director handles the groups accurately to the point of near annoyance - the girls focused on the task at hand, the guys much more relaxed for having extreme confidence in their abilities.

Predominantly likeable characters make for easy viewing as Beca tries to find her way. The songs arranged early are successfully made to sound dull, but overall prove part of an inspired blend of sounds.

The biggest influence of all, musically and personally, is The Breakfast Club. Moore unashamedly uses the coming-of-age classic film as a turning point for Beca in standing up and walking against the crowd. Well played.

While the Beca-Jesse relationship ultimately plays second fiddle to the competition, Wilson's comic edge comes as redemption. Wilson's turn is the best of her five films to release in 2012, pulling off some ridiculous statements to lighten the film's tone.

Rating: 3/5

Now screening at Reading Cinemas

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