If “The Sing-Off” didn’t sell you on a cappella, “Pitch Perfect” should do the trick. A charming, often screamingly funny mix-up of “Bridesmaids” girl power and “Say Anything” romance, this is the story of a “Bad News Bears”-esque group of girls who try to take their college singing group to the top of the cutthroat world of a cappella. Best of all, there’s lots of singing and dancing between the punchlines.
Elizabeth Banks, who’s best known as an actress (“30 Rock,” “The Hunger Games”) produced the film, and she clearly did more than rubber stamp the project — what started as a non-fiction book proposal grew into a surprisingly polished end project. “We were looking to make something really fun and funny,” Banks said. “We love stories bout underdogs, misfits who overcome and win in the end… we sold it as “Bring It On” meets “Superbad.” What do these nerds do when they go to college? They get to be rock stars.”
Banks was also open to taking some risks in hiring some behind-the-camera talent. In addition to using a first-time feature writer (Kay Cannon, “30 Rock”), she hired Jason Moore, whose previous experience was limited to television and Broadway, to direct. “We met with several directors, but Jason made us laugh… we sort of got the same sense of humor. He understood the musical aspect of the movie like no one else did…. We needed someone who really knows what he’s doing, because these kids have to sing and dance.”
Banks, who also produced the Bruce Willis film “Surrogates,” also stars in the movie, though that wasn’t an excuse for her to take off her producer hat. “It’s never off. Even that day, ‘no, that’s not right. We’re losing money people!’ It’s not off now. It won’t be off for four or five years.” But she says that all the hard work pays off, at least in a karmic sense. “It’s really fun to give people jobs.”
One star who didn’t need a job was Ester Dean. As a songwriter, she’s created hits for everyone from Rihanna to Katy Perry. So why take a supporting role as a “non-sexy ass lesbian”? “Because I had a little time off, I might as well go in there. I just wanted to grow, and I thought to myself, what you gonna do at 50? Do you want to be sitting there chasing songs or do you want to use your creativeness for other things?”
Dean had no problem playing Cynthia Rose, who is hardly a cuddly character. “Even as an artist, when you decide not to be the girl who dresses up in the skirts and wears the breasts, they automatically call you gay. So I don’t mind that,” she said.