Director Jason Moore plunges you straight into the action. We see freshman student Beca arriving at Barden University, which could stand for any American college, it is that generic. Cue Fresher Week stereotypes - the frat boy pledge groups, the curious clubs and societies, the freaks and geeks. Music-mad loner Beca rejects all of these until her father offers her a proposition: if she fully immerses herself in college life by joining at least one group (never mind attending any lectures), he will fund her dream trip to Los Angeles where she hopes to become a DJ. So Beca joins the a cappella group, the Barden Belles after acing her audition. This is one of the movie's funniest sequences, where we see the oddballs and misfits with Idol-inspired dreams of singing stardom go through their paces, including a painfully quiet Japanese girl who somehow manages to make the cut, though she proves her worth in the end with her human beat-box skills.
Meanwhile, fellow freshman Jesse singles Beca out for some special attention, though it's not clear why. Is it really just because they both have an internship on the college radio station? Or because Beca has a "hot rack"? (Warning: cleavage features heavily in this movie.) His attraction is never really explained. Meanwhile, Belles leader Aubrey is dead set on reaching the intercollege finals and trouncing the all-male group and current champions, the Treblemakers, who are led by the arrogant Bumper. But Aubrey remains firmly wedded to an anodyne routine for the Belles, while the Treblemakers mix it up with a different song each time they perform, which wow audiences wherever they go. Things are further complicated when Jesse joins the Treblemakers (again, it's not clear why): Belles are strictly forbidden to fraternise with the Trebles, or face expulsion from the group.
While Anna Kendrick is the movie's "star", it is Australian actress Rebel Wilson who makes the film her own with a career-turning scene where she cinches the group a place in the finals - after another group forfeits their place. This is the moment of crisis for the Belles. Beca is expelled for breaking out during a performance. But, of course, the disharmony is short-lived. Beca is accepted back into the fold and Aubrey agrees to mix it up a little. Meanwhile, Beca's relationship with Jesse has hit the skids after she pushes him away for trying to help her.
While the musical sequences make Pitch Perfect highly enjoyable (we hear everything from Michael Jackson, Boyz to Men and Cisco to Madonna, Jesse J and Pete Burns), it is easy to see how this could have been a much better movie. Curiously, the film takes some time to find its feet and writer Kay Cannon appears to have recycled the script for the 2006 movie, Stomp The Yard (there are so many points of similarity, I can't believe it's a coincidence), replacing dance scenes with singing ones and adding a few jokes. After the group's meltdown, Beca makes a comment about never previously having any female friends, but we see little evidence of female bonding prior to this - unless that means wearing push-up bras together and pretending to have a penis. If there's a "girl power" message here, it's an oddly muted one.
Clearly, the film's makers are hoping to piggy-back off successful TV shows such as Glee, X Factor and American Idol, of which Pitch Perfect is a natural successor. And with some solid musical arrangements and well-choreographed routines (particularly the Rihanna-inspired finale), this is sure to attract similar audiences. You will leave the cinema with a smile on your face and singing the songs - at least in your head.
Follow Alice Charles on Twitter: www.twitter.com/writersroompub