IN TERMS of overall enjoyment, Pitch Perfect is far greater than the sum of its diverse and disparate parts, most of which fall short, but not for want of trying. The attempts at mockery, social comment, defining female friendships, crude humour and political correctness seldom hit their intended targets; nevertheless, the result is a good-natured exuberance that flows naturally from its subject.

The setting is one of those US colleges where students never attend class or open a book; instead, Barden is a school that encourages extracurricular activities with a cappella singing being featured.

There is intramural rivalry between an all-boy and an all-girl group, the latter having left the previous year’s national competition after one of the singers disgraced herself on stage.

Beca (Anna Kendrick) steps reluctantly into this tense atmosphere with no wish to join anything, but her father, a lecturer, had promised to pay her tuition fee on the condition she enlist in one of the campus societies. Beca, who knows and loves her music, wants to turn her passion into a career and, to this end, she helps at the school’s radio station but her singing and musicality come to the attention of the Bellas, the all-female ensemble, whose repertoire and technique she tries to improve.

Naturally, her suggestions are rejected and she has to fight hard to change the existing formula and, by chance, there are openings available and the new recruits ensure the ensuing racial diversity adds an irresistible spirit to tired old routines and an acceptance of fresh ideas.

An Asian, a lesbian and an overweight newcomer who insists she be called Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) bring energy that is not welcomed by Aubrey (Anna Camp), the group’s established leader.

Kendrick acquits herself well despite being too old to be a college freshman but the acting honours go to Rebel Wilson for making a virtue of obesity.


THE latest 3D fantasy, Rise of the Guardians, differs from most recent, similar releases because its young target audience is not likely to find it quite as scary. Based on a series of children’s books by William Joyce, Peter Ramsey’s movie features some of the mythical figures who inform kids’ early years.

Thus, we have Santa Claus, aka North (voiced by Alec Baldwin), Tooth (Isla Fisher) and Bunny (Hugh Jackman) who, together, preserve innocence by protecting their young clients from reality. Their number is augmented by Jack Frost (Chris Pine), a misunderstood lad who is frustrated by the icy reception he gets even though he is invisible at times.

The cosy, reassuring world these well-meaning defenders of childhood inhabit is invaded by Pitch (Jude Law), who regards himself as the ultimate bogeyman and intends to destroy the do-gooders standing in his path to dominance.

The animation and 3D effects are first class and the action is replete with exciting chases, humour and life lessons, the usual ingredients, which are given more substance than has been the case in many other cases that tried to appeal to all ages and managed to satisfy none.

It is worth noting how political correctness has been applied: Santa Claus is regarded as too specific a religious reference so is called North, "Pole" having been omitted because its inclusion might offend other Eastern Europeans; Pitch leaves out Black, and Bunny hops around without a mention of Easter.


UK-BORN Julian Farino casts an outsider’s eye on US suburbia in The Oranges, Catherine Keener, Allison Janney and Oliver Platt as two married couples living opposite each other in New Jersey. Close friends, all four had hoped their long relationship would be perpetuated if the son from one side of the street would marry the daughter from across the road.

This unrealistic dream is shattered when David (Laurie) begins an affair with Nina (Leighton Meester), who is half his age and the daughter of Terry (Platt) and Carol (Janney).

Alas, the potential of these fine actors is largely wasted, but there are moments of truth, observation and wit that make this intrusion into domestic privacy worth a visit, if not a long stay.