One's about a group of girls who are misfits among the misfits — apparently, there is a social hierarchy among glee clubs, and they're at the very bottom — and the other is full of pretty, popular girls with shiny hair and teeth flipping around in cute cheerleader outfits. Both are the kind of movies that, on paper, sound really silly and kind of embarrassing but prove to be incredibly satisfying and fun to watch by yourself or a gang of friends.
Cheerleading and glee club have more in common than you'd think, or, for that matter, than what most high schoolers would like to think. Both are highly competitive activities most people think are a waste of time, but they actually take a lot of practice and talent. Both require matching outfits and strong personalities, which inevitably leads to lots of drama. And, sometimes, these activities lead to injuries and/or projective vomiting.
2000's "Bring it On" stars Kirsten Dunst as Torrance, an incredibly perky cheerleader who is named team captain her senior year of high school. This really rankles the team's main mean girls, played by Clare Kramer and Nicole Bilderback, and they definitely don't approve when she enlists a tart-tongued new girl named Missy to round out the team. Missy, played by Eliza Dushku in her "Buffy" prime, is a bad ass gymnast who thinks cheerleading is dumb but needs some way to keep in practice. Then there's Missy's brother Cliff, played by Jesse Bradford with a slow grin and suburban punk style. He sings and makes mix tapes, just in case you weren't already crushing on him. To make matters even more complicated, Torrance's boyfriend who just left for college is acting awfully suspicious, her mom is after her to study more and cheer less, and the previous team captain has been stealing moves from another high school all along. She's gotta shake things up for their team in a major way and avoid a cheerleader-led coup.
Even if you were a total benchwarmer in high school, it's still fun to watch the teams shake their pom poms, especially since Torrance is a genuinely nice person who just happens to be a popular, beautiful blonde cheerleader. Plus, the flirting between her and Cliff — back before Bradford traded in his "Swimfan" trunks for a baby Snugli and a sitcom — is way too adorable.
"Pitch Perfect" is the story of The Bellas, a college glee club fallen from grace after one of their leads violently barfs from nerves during a competition. (A cheerleader in "Bring it On" suffers the same humiliation before the big championship, although her smooth move occurred backstage.) The Bellas are the laughingstock of the a capella world. On top of that slip-up, their routines are tired and they need to recruit some new singers. New girl Beca (Anna Kendrick) loves music, but she doesn't wanna sing it. She wants to drop out and move to L.A. to become a professional DJ. She may not be as tough as Dushku's character in "Bring it On," but they are definitely cut from the same cool girl cloth. Beca's secret talent is found out, though, and she joins the group to get her dad off her back for a while.
Although there are still sort of mean girls in "Pitch Perfect" — group leaders Aubrey (Anna Camp) and Chloe (Brittany Snow) don't take it easy on any of the supposed weirdos they are forced to let into The Bellas — they're still pretty low on the totem pole when it comes to the general student population. Strangely enough, Barden University is a hotbed of a capella activity, and they seem almost impervious to outside influences. They make fun of other glee clubs, sure, but the aca-normals, as Aubrey and Chloe would say, barely exist. (Both groups have their own slang; in "Pitch Perfect," everything has "aca-" at the beginning, whereas the cheerleaders enjoy insulting wordplay like, "You put the 'lewd' in 'deluded'" and calling Torrence a "cheertator.") "Pitch Perfect" is like a slightly older, inverse version of "Bring it On."
The Bellas have the same high-stakes competitions that cheerleaders do, and it's just as much of a time commitment. Very few outsiders understand or support their chosen, uh, sport. When you get down to it, the major differences between cheerleading and glee club are outfits and the fact that one group sings and the other chants. See, we could have all gotten along in high school after all!
The really bad-ass newcomer to The Bellas, though, is "Fat Amy." Yup, that's what she calls herself. Rebel Wilson keeps her excellent Australian accent as she sings, dances and wisecracks her way into being one of the shining stars of The Bellas, and one of Beca's besties. Like Missy, she doesn't give a flip what everyone else thinks, and she's got the skills to back up her attitude.
Of course, there's the dude factor in "Pitch Perfect," too. Is it a coincidence that Beca's love interest is named Jesse (Skylar Astin) like Jesse Bradford?! Or that he's a nice guy in a world of aca-jerks? Obviously, Jesse also sings — for another group, which makes their love verboten. Will Jesse convince Beca to let her guard down and free up some space in her heart for something other than spinning tunes or belting 'em out?
Here's the bonus for fans of "Bring It On" sure to love "Pitch Perfect": It's much easier to recreate "Pitch Perfect" in your living room, car or favorite karaoke joint without any of the pulled muscles or broken ankles. Plus, "Pitch Perfect" has an excellent supporting cast that includes Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Ester Dean as one of The Bellas, Adam DeVine from stoner comedy "Workaholics" as the jerky leader of the rival dude group, and comedian/actress/designer Hana Mae Lee who plays the creepy-awesome Bella, Lily. Broadway lovers will recognize Astin from "Spring Awakening," and "Girls"-watchers might remember him as the guy who wasn't too keen on helping Shoshanna lose her virginity.
The big question is whether or not The Bellas will whip up some feisty — or at least puke-free — new numbers in time for the big competition. We think the answer is, "No diggity."