I was lured into this one by an Internet meme about what they’re calling “The Cup Song,” which I understand is actually a cover of “Cups (You’re Gonna Miss Me)” by a group called Lulu and the Lampshades, which in turn is a new version of “When I’m Gone” from the Carter Family all the way back in 1931. Whew! Quite a history. I just took a look at Lulu and they seem to be a nicely quirky group. What has happened is that every wannabe musician and group out there has now covered the song again, and some of them are very good, and some are embarrassing. But the basic thing that got it all started was Anna Kendrick doing a short little number while sitting on the stage in this movie. Then she made a music video of it, which is even better.
I adore Anna Kendrick, and she is the heart and soul of this movie … which really isn’t much of a movie, in some ways. I mean, predictable? You know in the first ten minutes how it’s all going to go. There’s the bitchy leader of the Belles, the girl group forever in second place to the Treblemakers, the boy group led by a guy who is way beyond obnoxious. Guess who wins the big competition at the end? It all unfolds like that, by the numbers … and yet, it kept me going because of the sheer likeability of Anna and some of the other girls. Particularly Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson, an Aussie girl who is very good), who calls herself that just to get all the fat jokes out of the way when someone meets her.
This is an impossibly sweet, impossibly straight college campus that exists only in some timeless neverland that has its roots in Andy Hardy’s hometown. (It was actually filmed in Baton Rouge.) A cappella singing is the be-all and end-all of these students’ existence. It is based on a real competition which happens every year where these extremely well-rehearsed groups duke it out head to head, and I’m guessing it is just about as competitive as we see here, if not as nasty.
But the bottom line, for me, is that the music overcomes all the other obstacles and makes large parts of the movie sheer magic. I’m a sucker for a cappella singing, and there is some of the best you’ll ever hear in this one. Engineered like crazy, of course, but I can’t complain when it makes it all sound so great. Even songs I’ve never heard of and probably wouldn’t even like sound terrific with this treatment. In the end it’s all good-natured fun, and I forgave it’s many flaws … except for two scenes of grossly overdone vomiting that were just not needed in a film as clean as this. I guess it’s reflexive these days to write in something disgusting. Is it to bring in the witless? No point to that; they’re in the next theater, watching Adam Sandler’s latest crime against humor and humanity.