When I was in high school, the coveted musical group to be part of was the A Capella Choir. Which rarely sang a capella, probably because Mrs. Folden was such a wonderful pianist. Or maybe because we couldn’t do all those boom-clickety-snap noises with our mouths to accompany “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion” with any reasonable believability.
In PP2, unlike at Brethren High School, white college students (token Black, token Asian) are able to replicate the entire range of percussion instruments with their mouths, having never lived (as many of my schoolmates did) in Compton. It’s ethnically and culturally amazing, really, but hey, progress since the 1970s.
Speaking of cultural and ethnic commentary, this movie is full of that, to a degree possibly more offensive than even my Compton-comment above. One of the judges of the singing competitions, in particular, is fast and loose with full-throated racism, sexism, size-ism, and so on, and is only funny because we are not laughing with him–we’re laughing at him, the bigoted turd. Even his judging colleague (Elizabeth Banks, or, as we love to call her, “Effie Trinket”) lets us know by pained facial expressions that she isn’t buying into at least some of his offensiveness, i.e., “Girls don’t belong in college; they’re all going to be pregnant soon anyway.” (Ms. Banks also directed this very funny film.)
The story is that a college women’s a capella group, The Bellas, is going to compete in the World A Capella Championships in wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen after graduation. The film is about growing relationships, crumbling relationships, hard work, and devotion to one’s persistent nagging dream–that thing inside that says, “Yes, I can, and darn it, yes I will.” Hard work pays off, and the Bellas find themselves in the finals, going head-to-head with (I have to say it) the teutonic might of Durmstrang Institute, complete with a very scary Viktor Krum. Actually, I don’t know what his name is–but you know who I mean. The scary German stereotype who wants to tear your vocal cords out and set fire to them. And that’s just the girl. The scary man German stereotype was carved out of marble by Michelangelo himself and then wound up to dance and sing. It’s quite a show, and frankly, these people get robbed.
The sweet little American girls actually are little, if not completely sweet. the most memorable of them is Fat Amy, who is very comfortable in her fatness, and has to be so, since everyone is laughing at her fatness, which is mean and horrible, but inevitable, given the tight clothes and in-your-face attitude, because, dontcha know, fat girls s’posed to be all quiet and hidey, not have opinions and stuff. Certainly not dance. How dare she? How dare she own the name “Fat Amy” all proprietary and “You can’t judge me shut up and go away right now.” Ditto for the black lesbian who’s all, “I’m here to sing; get over it.” There’s an Asian girl I am thoroughly at a loss to explain, and I am pretty much terrified by her.
There’s some sexual innuendo. Not for kids. There were some kids in my audience. Not sure what the parents are thinking. But then, here’s a confession: when I had three toddlers, I once took them with me to see Chicago, because (1) I wanted to see it, and (2) they would never remember it. Fast forward 12+ years. Earlier this year, a 15-year-old said to me, “Mom, remember that movie where there were these two ladies and they killed people and they went to jail, but then they got out and had a dancing act?” And I said, “YOU WERE TWO. STOP IT!” Different kids have different skills, and the moral is, think twice before taking kids to questionable movies.
Oh, I almost forgot. The Clay Matthews moment is worth the price of admission if you’re a Packers fan. Dude brings it.