Review: Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)

Pitch Perfect 2

Rating

Director

Trish Sie

Screenplay

Kay Cannon, Mike White

Length

1h 33min

Starring

Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Kelley Jakle, Shelley Regner, Chrissie Fit, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, John Lithgow, Matt Lanter, Guy Burnet, Alexis Knapp, DJ Khaled, Troy Ian Hall, Michael Rose, Jessica Chaffin, Moises Arias, Derek Mehn, Ruby Rose, Andy Allo, Venzella Joy Williams, Hannah Fairlight

MPAA Rating

PG-13

Original Preview

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Buy on DVD/Blu-ray

Soundtrack

Poster

Source Material

Review

While somewhat preposterous to an extent, the first two films in the Pitch Perfect series managed to keep a tenuous grasp on reality. For its third outing, the series has irrevocably drifted into the realm of fantasy, but does that work for Pitch Perfect 3?

Yes, but also no. What made the women in these films compelling was that they came from all walks of life and experiences and found success with its inclusive, supportive feminist themes. To the extent that the third film connects itself to that premise in familiar ways, there are equal parts unbelievable elements that make one question if the series has abandoned its roots or moved on.

Having graduated Barden University, Anna Kendrick’s Beca has found her prospects as a music producer limited by the vanity of her clients. She and the other former Barden Bellas agree to a reunion show, but arrive to find that one of their fellow Bellas (Hailee Steinfeld) merely invited them to see the new crop of talent perform. Adrift with few prospects, they leap at a chance for a reunion tour with the USO. Yet, their unique style of music is quickly mocked by the other bands, an all-female rock band led by Ruby Rose, a country band, and a hip-hop duo. As the competition heats up, the Bellas find themselves out of their depths.

What sidetracks the narrative and pushes it over the edge into fantasy is the Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) subplot that involves her absent father (John Lithgow) coming out of the woodwork wanting to restore his relationship with his daughter, but in reality wanting access to her large off-shore safety deposit box. As an underworld criminal, Lithgow’s character becomes a major flashpoint that leads to Beca and Amy engaging in a covert rescue mission.

With the second film’s director Elizabeth Banks moving on to other projects, the film is left in the hands of neophyte director Trish Sie who doesn’t seem to have the same innate directorial sense that Banks had. Kay Cannon’s story is co-opted by fellow screenwriter Mike White and the end result is a bit messy, but still rather fun.

That fun is the result of a killer cast. Not only are all of the members of the a cappella group on point, so too is Lithgow who plays into his villainous comedic role with the kind of attention to excess that he has brought to so many productions. None of the acting is great by any means, but as long as the music is on point, the show can still succeed. Yet, unlike the prior two films, even the musical numbers are a bit underwhelming. They make up for this with gusto and inventiveness, including an impromptu performance on Lithgow’s yacht. All-in-all, the film still adds up to great fun and while it may not be quite the stellar production we had come to expect after the first two films, the end result is still entertaining enough to keep the audience entertained.

Pitch Perfect 3 will certainly not win the series any new fans, but the faithful are rewarded with a fun time that is only minimally damaged by the leap to the fantastical. Whether its slight decrease in quality impacts the future of the franchise remains to be seen, especially since all of the characters have wrapped up story arcs that take them away from one another. Either way, I hope the producers decide to take a step back and refine what made the formula work best and return any future productions to that level of musical accessibility.

Review Written

June 29, 2020

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