This Friday, Oct. 5, Pitch Perfect will open wide, and Butter will be in limited release and available as VOD. They both feature highly competitive people attempting to win a title, and both made me laugh quite a few times.
I saw Butter last year at the AFI Fest (which runs Nov. 1-8 this year), where a beautiful, pregnant Jennifer Garner introduced the film. She plays a politically ambitious woman determined to win a butter-carving competition against a black child prodigy. The movie’s release was apparently held until now to take advantage of the election season, because Garner’s Laura Pickler has shades of Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin (the actress has said in interviews that’s not intentional).
Garner’s performance is unlike her others that I’ve seen. The actress commits to the character’s uptight, ruthless nature, saying ridiculous things with a straight face, and playing dirty against a little girl—an orphan, no less. It’s clear Garner had lots of fun in the role. Ty Burrell and Olivia Wilde, as a bicycle-riding stripper, also got laughs, as well as Hugh Jackman as a moronic car salesman. Newcomer Yara Shahidi is the heart of the film as the child, Destiny, who at one point carves something surprisingly poignant.
Nerd verdict: Salty and sweet Butter
Based on Mitch Rapkin’s nonfiction book of the same name, this fictional look inside the cutthroat world of collegiate a capella competitions has “sleeper hit” written all over it. The story follows the Barden Bellas, an all-girls group, as they try to redeem themselves at the finals in Lincoln Center a year after a disastrous performance there. The ragtag group contains members of dubious talent, including one who has an inaudible speaking voice, one unwilling to go along with the choreographed routines, and another who calls herself “Fat Amy” and “aca-awesome.”
You may have seen Rebel Wilson in Bridesmaids, but you may not have remembered her name. I have a feeling everyone will soon know it because she takes control of Pitch Perfect as Fat Amy and doesn’t let go. Her confidence cannot be denied. Anna Kendrick impresses as Beca, an alt-girl who just wants to go to L.A. and produce music. Beca’s pseudo-sullenness can’t disguise Kendrick’s natural charm, and she can really sing.
The musical performances are rousing, director Jason Moore (Avenue Q) keeps things moving at a nice rhythm, and as soon as John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (who also produced) show up as commentators, you’ll probably start chuckling just anticipating the inappropriate things they’ll say. They don’t disappoint.
Nerd verdict: Perfectly entertaining
Photos: Butter/The Weinstein Co., Pitch Perfect/Universal