Pitch Perfect 3
Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld, Elizabeth Banks, Ruby Rose, John Lithgow
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…not so much a story as a victory lap…
The Bellas are back for what feels like the final time in this third installment of the a capella-centric Pitch Perfect franchise.
When we reunite with our all-singing female friends they’re a year or two out of college and grappling with the often grim realities of the real world: Beca (Anna Kendrick) is reeling after being fired from her entry-level music producing gig, Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) is struggling to find an audience for her Fat Amy Winehouse one woman show, and the rest of the gang are dealing with the usual gamut of dramas and disappointments.
However, the opportunity for one last adventure presents itself in the form of a whirlwind USO tour of Europe, entertaining American troops alongside other acts who play *gasp* actual instruments. Can the Bellas overcome the snobbery of their muso stagemates, find a little romance and fun, and maybe even impress DJ Khaled (a shoehorned-in cameo) enough to win an opening slot for his show?
Well, of course they can. There are few surprises in the broad narrative and tonal strokes of PP3 – although some late stage developments might raise a few eyebrows. The film is not so much a story as a victory lap, bringing the gang back together on the flimsiest of excuses – commentators John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks are back in the fold on the pretext of making a documentary about the Bellas, for example – and letting them do what they do.
And that’s no bad thing – if you’ve enjoyed the last two outings, you’re more than likely going to get the same itch scratched by this third film – there’s plenty of catchy tunes, plenty of laughs (Wilson gets the lion’s share, but Hana Mae Lee’s mousy weirdo is the MVP by far), and the usual well-worn but nonetheless valuable lessons about sisterhood and loyalty.
Dig a little deeper and you might be disappointed though – a lot of themes and plotlines are dallied with but left largely unexplored. Once again Beca has to balance her own talents and ambitions against her loyalty to the Bellas, and we already know how that’s going to play out because we saw it happen in the last movie. The rivalry with the other bands on the tour, focused on Ruby Rose’s antagonistic rocker, never really peaks, and this is about the third film this year with Rose in a prominent role where she’s given not much to do except stand around looking like Ruby Rose – which she is, admittedly, very good at.
Indeed, the story’s so thin that a rather jarring action and suspense element is injected in the form of Amy’s long-lost father (John Lithgow with a hammy faux-Aussie accent), who makes the jump from “dead-beat dad” to “international supervillain” remarkably casually, leading to an explosive climax that isn’t too many degrees off your average Jason Bourne setpiece. Yes, this is in the movie where the girls sing hip hop medleys.
But it’s fun, and that’s what counts. Still, this might be time to call it a day. There’s a possible future out there where the law of diminishing returns and the value of a recognisable brand name combine to send the Pitch Perfect franchise to direct-to-video purgatory, and nobody deserves that. Much better to end on a high note – which Pitch Perfect 3 is