That such a ploy would actually sell a movie is a sad commentary — but these trailers can also serve as a warning to those of us who want to avoid certain movie excesses.
The 2-1/2 minute theatrical preview for “Pitch Perfect,” which opened last October and went to DVD/Blu-ray in mid-December, had both amusing and off-putting moments as it revealed the film to be something more (or less) than the “Glee” knockoff that its 15- and 30-second musical TV spots were obviously going for.
As revealed in the trailer, the story has an aspiring deejay (the very talented Anna Kendrick) reluctantly attending college when she is recruited to sing with an all-female a cappella group rehearsing for a national competition. On the plus side, there are some great songs energetically performed by the more-than-capable cast members. On the downside, the film appears to have a too recognizable by-the-numbers plot, and worse, the trailer revels in moments of raunchiness that seem awfully strong for a PG-13 film.
The film seemed to have the potential to be a wonderfully entertaining family picture if only the filmmakers hadn’t taken the sleazy low road. Still, there was enough on display in the trailer to deter parents who might otherwise have thought “Pitch Perfect” was an appropriate movie for the musically inclined young teen or “tween” in their household.
Our curiosity about the film was enough to lure my wife and I to a theater toward the end of its run, hoping that what was in the trailer was all we had to worry about. Hey, it’s PG-13; it won’t be too bad, right?
And the film did have many enjoyable sequences, especially the musical moments. But it also had way too many that pushed the content over the edge, including sexual innuendo and foul language. Yep, definitely out of bounds for youngsters; we’d be warning our kids and grandkids.
But there was also something else, something that shocked us a bit, something that was not even hinted at in the trailer, and which was not mentioned in any reviews I read before we went: two ridiculously over-the-top vomiting sequences. I don’t know what exactly that is conjuring up in your mind, but whatever it is, the onscreen portrayal in “Pitch Perfect” is far worse.
Modern movies think nothing of graphic depictions of many things that were once forbidden, and which many members of the audience still find disgusting, ranging from blood-spattering violence to overly revealing bathroom scenes, something that is discussed in Chapter 8 of “Has Hollywood Lost It’s Mind?” And one of the things mentioned is the first movie I saw that graphically showed someone vomiting, as opposed to the more oblique treatment that was more common up to that point — such as having a character hold his stomach or put his hand to his mouth while racing to a bathroom and shutting the door.
As it became more and more common to graphically show that kind of thing during the late 1970s and early ’80s, it was still confined to R-rated movies. That is until it was decided somewhere along the way that losing your lunch in an exaggerated way could be “funny.” Soon enough, PG and PG-13 movies began to show it in an allegedly humorous context, such as a baby in a highchair spewing across the kitchen.
But “Pitch Perfect” takes it to a truly revolting extreme. The first time is in the opening sequence as a singer projectile vomits for a very long time, so long that it goes from realistic to absurd. But in his context, “absurd” should not be confused with “funny.”
The second time is even worse, trying to top the first, of course, and occurring much later in the film when the same character hurls on the floor of the school gymnasium in such a large puddle that you just know someone’s going to step in it. But these days stepping in it isn’t be enough so it goes even further as a character lies in it and makes a rather nauseating version of snow angels.
So the film company was deceptive by leaving any hint of this out of the trailer, and the critics were negligent by not warning moviegoers in their reviews, but if that’s not enough, the rating board ignored it as well. The explanation for “Pitch Perfect’s” PG-13 rating is “for sexual material, language and drug references.” Apparently sickening images of over-the-top vomiting are not worthy of rating-board warnings.