Pitch Perfect: A True Underdog Story

It’s Dodgeball, with singing!

By Bryan Berlin

I had mixed feelings sitting in the theater minutes before Pitch Perfect started. On one hand, it stars Anna Kendrick, an actress I’ve loved in every movie she’s been in since she started out in Rocket Science (although I haven’t seen her in the Twilight series – maybe I’ll just keep it that way). It also has supporting roles from Adam DeVine and Rebel Wilson, two of the newer, funnier people out there.

On the other hand, the entire movie revolved around a cappella. It’s not that I’m against a cappella. It’s that I’m against the portrayal of a cappella in the media ever since the middle of the first season of Glee. The pilot of Glee was honestly one of the best pilots I had ever seen. It was funny, smart, and portrayed high school in a fairly accurate way. Then about six episodes in they realized about 90% of their audience was watching the show for the musical numbers peppered throughout the show, and at that moment the show made it so story was just a vessel to get to the next song. Suddenly episodes had five or six songs when before they only had three. Story was thrown out the window (or good story at least). It was a bummer.

Sitting in that theater, I couldn’t help but worry that Pitch Perfect was just looking to capitalize on Glee and would be nothing more than songs. I was totally wrong. Not only was Pitch Perfect funny, but it also had a pretty decent story and great characters. When I thought about it more, I realized the structure of Pitch Perfect was something I had seen before, in the 2004 movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

Yes it seems crazy. A movie about guys playing dodgeball and a movie about college nerds singing a cappella are cut from the same mold? Yes. They definitely are. And here’s why:

The Underdog Story

The first scene of Pitch Perfect takes place at the national championships, where the all-female Barden Bellas completely humiliate themselves and lose to their on-campus, all-male rivals, The Treblemakers. Everyone leaves the Bellas, and the following year, the only two remaining team members are left to put together a rag-tag group of singers for a group that no one good wants to be a part of. Instead of competing for $50,000 to save a gym, they’re playing for pride and redemption. And they are definitely as bad as the guys in Dodgeball starting out.

The Asshole Villain

Yes, White Goodman is one of the best comedic ‘villains’ out there, but Adam DeVine does great playing that role in Pitch Perfect. He’s an asshole, he’s well liked in his world, but he’s a guy you have to assume would just get beat up in any other social situation outside of a capella. He has bad one liners, zings, and makes a fool out of himself on multiple occasions. Which was the same with Ben Stiller’s character in Dodgeball.

The Misfits

You couldn’t have a good underdog story without the misfit crew who look like they’ll never pull this together and then things start to click at the last minute until someone screws up and they have a falling out before coming back together for the championship moment. And these misfits are good. There’s the low talker. The girl who strip-dances as she sings. The lesbian black girl that everyone makes awkward jokes about. And Rebel Wilson, who’s a little too out there for the straight-laced style of the group. They are well quirked out, just like the Dodgeball team.

The Love Story

Both of these movies play the guy that really likes the girl but the girl is too cool to admit she likes the guy until the guy does something to piss them off which makes them realize they’ve like the guy all along game. To be honest, I was more impressed with how it worked in Pitch Perfect. Maybe it’s because I’m recently out of college, but the way the relationship between Anna Kendrick (Beca) and Skylar Astin (Jesse) plays out is epitome awkward college relationship. Late nights watching movies on the girl’s bed. Bonding over music tastes. Bailing each other out of jail. You know, normal college relationship things.

The Commentators

This is where I initially made the comparisons to Dodgeball while watching the movie. In Dodgeball, Jason Bateman and Gary Cole stole the show as Pepper and Cotton, adding some perfect one-liners throughout the matches. In the same way, Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins killed it as the commentators. Banks played this weird but perfect ex-a cappella singer who made the right amount of sexually awkward jokes during competitions.

Sure, everything may not be exactly the same. Pitch Perfect doesn’t have a salty, ex-singer helping them along the way. Instead of playing on the same team, the love interests in Pitch Perfect end up being on rival teams (which I actually liked more). And while White Goodman and Vince Vaughn had a pretty intense rivalry, Adam DeVine’s hatred for the Bellas only goes so far before he drops out of the competition to be a back up singer for John Mayer (which couldn’t have been a more perfect way to get him out). Overall though, the movies took very similar roads.

And yes there is a lot of singing. But some of it is really impressive. The riff-off scene was great. The Anna Kendrick cup-singing scene was badass. If you totally hate music, this movie isn’t for you. But if you liked Dodgeball and can get down with some cool renditions of songs and a cappella playfully making fun of itself along the way, then this is the movie to see.

 

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One Comment on “Pitch Perfect: A True Underdog Story”

  1. It’s interesting how we are getting these female versions of famous male comedies, like the way Bridesmaids was a riff on Hangover. It’s great to see!


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