The Barden Bellas are back for one last shot at stardom, and after sitting through the 90-minute Pitch Perfect 3 run time… I’d rather they’d stayed at home.
After blowing away the competition in #1 and #2, the third installment sees the Bellas (Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow et al.) out in the big, wide, adult world, doing jobs they hate to pay the rent for tiny apartments they hate living in, whilst clinging onto their dreams of acapella domination. But, wait? Would you believe it – they’ve stumbled into one final competition, with the top prize the chance to open for world famous music producer DJ Khaled.
Jet-setting off to Spain, the Bellas find they’re up against some tough competition – a rapper, a banjo-strumming country group, and Evermoist, a foursome fronted by tough girl Calamity (Orange is the New Black star Ruby Rose). Challenging the others to a riff-off, the Bellas soon realise how talented their competitors are because…hang on…they play instruments! Defeats the point of acapella, but let’s run with it!
Stumbling, bumbling and humiliating themselves in their attempts to get Khaled to notice them, the Bellas start to see just how huge their challenge is – will Calamity and her crew beat them to the top? And, simultaneously, why is Fat Amy’s (Wilson) shady-looking father (played by the brilliant John Lithgow) trying to worm his way back into her life? What could he want?
As a big fan of the 2012 original, I had high hopes for the 2015 sequel, but was left feeling a little bored (there’s only so many times you can hear the same ‘fat jokes’ from Wilson’s Amy). Not sure how to feel about the idea of a second sequel/’finale’, I went in with an open mind, hoping to be impressed. Sadly, that wasn’t to be so.
What works? Anna Kendrick, that scrappy little nobody who just shines talent. She’s witty, charming, self-deprecating, sarcastic, fun to watch, and can carry a tune. She’s who attracted me to Pitch Perfect, five years ago. Give her as much screen time as possible, she’s worth it. Alongside Kendrick, Brittany Snow as Chloe is hilarious, letting her cutesy-cluelessness work its magic. As a whole, the ensemble cast work brilliantly together, with strong themes of teamwork, friendship, and ‘all girls together’ hard to ignore and very welcome. As a 20-something who was a fan of early 2000s teen comedies, it’s refreshing to see a group of women working together, rather than ripping each other apart (looking at you, Mean Girls).
So, what doesn’t work? Everything else, really. The ‘funny’ is predictable, with many of the one-liners falling flat. Also, with a screening full of pre-teens and their parents, and a certificate rating of 12A, I found some of the quips a little inappropriate for the target audience – and lets not even broach the ‘Evermoist’ band name and jokes that ensued.
Where the original had a clear ending in sight (college girls sing together to beat the boys) and the sequel tried to round things off (college girls graduate and want to mark their apparent final goodbye), this third film has lost the plot, quite literally. Aside from trying to impress DJ Khaled, there isn’t really a narrative aim, with Lithgow’s character shoehorned into the story as an antagonist, purely to create an unnecessary explosive ending.
It can’t be denied that the vocal performances and dance routines are tight and entertaining, but Pitch Perfect 3 just loses what made the first installment so great – pure charm, witty sarcasm, and effortless laughs. It’ll impress a younger audience, but will just make parents cringe.
Pitch Perfect 3 opens in UK cinemas on 20 December.