Pitch Perfect

This movie is a lot of fun!  It’s very funny, the musical numbers are fantastic, and I love how enthusiastic everyone is about belting tunes out all the time! It’s totally nerdy but in an empowering, “we’re-not-embarassed-that-we-love-music” kind of way.  As one character says in a completely serious tone, “Organized nerd-singing–this is great!”  Some of the jokes are sexually suggestive/explicit, so it’s not really appropriate for a high school or below audience, but it’s set on a college campus and it’s not surprising that college kids would talk about sex.  And I appreciated that this movie didn’t feel the need to show anyone having it.

picture of the Barton Belles

“I love you, awesome nerds.” -Beca

The story follows rival a cappella groups competing at the collegiate level, but focuses most on a young wanna-be DJ, Beca, who is very concerned with maintaining an “I’m not like everybody else” image.  She joins the Barton Belles partly because she does, secretly, love music, partly because they’re desperate the recruit new members, and partly because her dad promises to help her pursue her true dream of moving to L.A. if she will spend a year really trying to get involved on campus.

picture of jesse and beca

“What? You don’t like movies?! What is wrong with you? How do you not like movies?! Not like movies is like not liking puppies!” -Jesse (Obviously I loved this line.)

I won’t spoil the ins-and-outs of the competition, but Beca is forced to confront and change the way she has been emotionally isolating herself, start to reconcile with her dad and make some real friends.  The story isn’t the forefront, since the emphasis is on the singing first of all, and the jokes second, but I think there is real character growth from the surly, eye-rolling girl who checks into her dorm at the beginning and the one who smiles broadly from genuine enjoyment while she sings with her now-friends by the end.  Also, the leader of Beca’s group is a control freak, and must learn by the end to let everyone’s input be heard, and to not prioritize winning over relishing the music and the act of singing together itself.

Those are good, healthy messages, although there aren’t necessarily scriptural references to go with them.  There are a lot of verses about singing and praising God, and while this movie definitely wasn’t singing praise songs, it reminded me how much I love singing, and I think God likes to watch humans throw their whole hearts into their using their talents and pursuing their passions the way these characters do.

picture of rebel wilson as fat amy

Amy tells her fellow songstresses, “Even though some of you are pretty thin, I think you all have fat hearts.”

When I walked out of the theater from Pitch Perfect, I just wanted to walk around singing all night.  I think David must have surely felt the same way, when he wrote this passage:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
   make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
  with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Psalm 98:4-6

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Rock of Ages

I don’t know what I was thinking.  I actually thought I would like this movie.  But it’s a rock opera, with a clumsy script whose only purpose is to cram in as many ‘Rock and Roll’ songs as possible, and it’s theme can pretty much be summed up with the old saying, “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll!”  (Although there really weren’t any drugs, but plenty of alcohol.)

The singing and acting was meh.  The storyline, as mentioned, was weak.  The songs weren’t as inspiring to me as much as they might be to people who grew up with them.

Drew (Diego Boneta) bursts into song, as people in musicals do, but a second later in dialogue claims he can’t sing in front of people because he gets stage fright.  He sings about buying a guitar even though he didn’t know how to play, and that it felt so right in his arms.  Then he proceeds to hold guitars as props and not play them for the rest of the movie, with exactly one strumming exception.

Sherrie (Julianne Hough) smiles like a Cheshire cat in place of having a personality.  She headbangs along to air-guitar players.  She’s pursuing her dreams with the blessing of her grandmother, who “didn’t want [her] to end up stuck in Oklahoma like she was.”  Life anywhere outside LA must be a terrible fate, you guys.

Please explain to me what the actual difference is between Sherrie’s job as an exotic pole-dancer, which she is so ashamed of, and her dancing and booty-shaking on stage in a skimpy outfit at a rock concert in the end.  Am I supposed to be tricked into thinking she’s “made it” now and has escaped being demeaned by sexual objectification?  Or am I supposed to cheer that she is on the road to becoming a rock star like Stacee Jaxx, (Tom Cruise), who laments to a reporter that he can never escape from the lusty expectation of his fans that he forever symbolize sex, right before he has sex with the reporter, (Malin Ackerman).  (I’m sorry I’m not marking the *spoiler warnings*, but I’d rather not encourage people to see this one.)

The mayor’s wife, Patricia, (Catherine Zeta-Jones), is a caricature of a political manipulator masquerading as a moral crusader.  Ha ha, she’s so unlikeable her own husband is having an affair with his secretary!  And then her campaign to shut down the Rock bar and “clean up the streets” is completely undermined when her ulterior motive is revealed to be revenge, because she slept with Stacee Jaxx and then he left her (like he did to pretty much everyone, it seems).  And she clearly still has the hots for Stacee, but he re-rejcts her at the end after squeezing her boob, (which is also how he greets Sherrie earlier.  This man is a pig.)  But she’s a hypocrite, so we’re not supposed to care, and we can dismiss her and all her supporters with a laugh.  Oh, those idiots thinking this Rock culture is unhealthy for young people!  They’re just uptight and/or don’t know what they’re talking about!  (See above boob -squeezing, stripping, and alcohol imbibing.  It’s wholesome.)

I mean, if everything is ridiculous and every character absurd, the audience doesn’t have to actually think about the moral implications or the point of the story or the quality of the characters.  They’re just expected to sing along.

Stacee Jaxx invites you to join the mindless screaming crowd and replace critical thought with Rock lyrics. It’s the only way you’ll enjoy this movie.

I suppose you could say the movie teaches you should follow your dreams, (both Drew and Sherrie leave home and travel to LA hoping to become singers) and not compromise, (Drew sells out for a recording deal and changes his image into that of a boy-band popster before reneging on his contract and rebelling back to his rock roots.  We are supposed to applaud him for this even though he screws over his bandmates and manager–but they’re not “cool”, so who cares, right?)  Are these Biblical values?

Well, not compromising on your convictions certainly is. (CITATION NEEDED verse/s).  And Jesus did say (get rid of stuff even family to follow him).  But notice that is to follow God and seek his will, not our own dreams of selfish ambition.  As Christians we are called to be selfless.  That doesn’t mean that if you want to be a singer, you should abandon that pursuit and become a nun instead.  God gives us passions and abilities and wants us to use them.  Think of Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, (a much better movie that I would totally recommend you watch instead of Rock of Ages,) when he explains to his sister that he intends to become a missionary but will first run in the Olympics;

I believe God made me for a purpose.  But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.

The only goal we should be 100% dedicated to, above all else, is glorifying God and serving his will.  In fact, Liddell demonstrates this excellently in the aforementioned movie, (based on real-life events), when he refuses to run on Sunday.  It’s not that he doesn’t care about competing; it’s just that he cares more about maintaining his convictions to honor God than himself.  (The Bible is peppered with verses about standing firm and not compromising; here’s one.)  In Rock of Ages, Sherrie and Drew don’t really seem motivated by a desire to sing or “rock” as much as “be famous!”  I’m positive that singing or playing rock music can be done in service of the Kingdom of God, but as you pursue whatever you’re into, remember that your focus shouldn’t be on promoting yourself:

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. –Phillipians 2:3-4

In summary, if you wanted to watch this movie for the music, I would recommend just buying the soundtrack instead.  You’ll be spared the movie’s worthless messages that way.