If Pitch Perfect was a delight back in 2012 and Pitch Perfect 2 was sweetness on a bigger budget three years later, Pitch Perfect 3 is obligatory, commercial and only just worth the bother.
There’s an off key oddity at the very heart of the film, which is presumably the final part in the popular a Capella trilogy. It’s the moment in which Elizabeth Banks’ sniping Gail makes the remark that ‘we’ve’ been following the progress of Beca (Anna Kendrick) and the Barden Bellas for seven years. The problem being that it’s actually only been five years since Jason Moore’s inaugural sleeper hit was released. This might be a minor grumble but it belies more major flaws of a weaker but still fun threequel.
Having graduated in film two, the Bellas have hit life as the new film opens. Beca’s a budding music producer, Chloe (Brittany Snow) is at vet school and Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy is an Amy Winehouse tribute act. Yet, none feel at ease in their notional success and when opportunity knocks for a group reunion to perform for an oversees USO tour each leaps forth.
You see, it turns out that Aubrey (Anna Camp) has a military-serving father who can win them a place and the chance to open too for a cameoing DJ Khaled. Throw in Fat Amy’s random long-lost crook of a parent, with a handful of half-baked love-interests, and soupy patchwork melodrama is born.
In fairness to the script by Kay Cannon and Mike White, there is at least a knowingness – a wink and a nudge – to just how constructed this all is. When Aubrey announces the convenient career of her Dad, Beca murmurs of there being ‘a lot of new information in that sentence’ whilst Chloe pipes up ‘Is there a competition? There’s always a competition.’ On the other hand, the flimsiness does no favours to poor character arcs which merely fill the gaps between a succession of well choreographed numbers. We can always rely on the music at least, given the talent here.
The worst of the storylines is that of Fat Amy’s fatuous father, rather dully played by an Aussie accented John Lithgow. A ludicrously misjudged climax is the result of the strand, revealing just how hopelessly lost the film’s producers found themselves in contriving how to milk the beloved gals one more time. It’s nonsense and a far cry from the simple but effective journeys of Beca in the former films. Employing Step Up All In’s Trish Sie to direct the film is similarly suggestive of an approach less concerned for character than spectacle. Nobody in Pitch Perfect 3 behaves like a real human being and few bear continuity with their previous selves.
As per norm for the trilogy, Pitch Perfect 3 is still very funny. The faux-sexism of John Michael Higgins’s misogynistic John Smith continues to deliver and dry wit of Wilson remains well timed. Likewise, the film should certainly raise smiles, whilst ardent fans may indeed well up for the genuinely emotional finale – albeit more due to the harder work and greater successes accumulated from before.