While still sporadically fun, it’s only about reliving what’s been done before
Pitch Perfect 3 has Beca (Anna Kendrick) and the Barden Bellas alumni reuniting and taking stock of their generally unfulfilling lives. Beca has just quit her job at a music label, tired of working on music she doesn’t believe in. And the rest of the girls seem to be in similarly unhappy situations. They all decide that they all just miss singing with each other, so with the help of some family connections, the Bellas end up joining the USO tour. And through some plot complications, they end up in another competition, this time for the prize of opening for DJ Khaled.
It probably isn’t unfair to say that Pitch Perfect didn’t need a third movie. The sequel already felt pretty extraneous at points, but one could forgive it as a much-deserved victory lap for an unusual and unexpected hit. This third film ends up having to hang a lampshade on the formula, constantly acknowledging how it’s basically just going through the motions, even if it doesn’t really make sense in the new setting. There’s still some fun to be mined from this mess, but the halfhearted struggle to make it all fit is difficult to ignore.
The film immediately dives into the absurd by starting with an action sequence that will have the Bellas singing Toxic before having to jump out of an exploding yacht. The film is smart enough to put its tongue firmly in it cheek the whole way, fully embracing the kind of over-the-top silliness that tends to come from extending a pretty simple premise to a third movie. But that acknowledgement doesn’t automatically absolve it of that charge. If anything, it sets up a problematic structure for the movie, as it zooms back to three weeks prior, and plays out a narrative that will lead to the same moment.
The structure suggests that the film wants the audience to ask “how did the Bellas end up in this situation?” But then the movie itself doesn’t seem all that interested in that question. It instead just starts repeating all the signature beats of the franchise. There is a riff-off with the other bands on the USO tour, which ends up feeling a lot less fun than the other two versions of the same scene. There’s the Bellas somehow messing up their first performance, before pulling together and going through a montage of much more successful sessions. And there are the two acapella commentators (John Michale Higgins and Elizabeth Banks) providing wry narration over it all.
And the film just can’t seem to muster the same enthusiasm for these things anymore. It’s all done halfheartedly, with the weary acceptance that people just want to see the same thing over and over again. Trish Sie brings some kinetic energy to the performance sequences, but it isn’t really an improvement to previous editions. The cast is as great as they’ve ever been, but there really is a sense that they should all be past this already.
Pitch Perfect 3 is thoroughly unnecessary. It’s still kind of fun, but the movie itself is forced to acknowledge that it doesn’t really have anything new to offer audiences. It’s pretty clear that there wasn’t a story that the creators really felt like they needed to tell about these characters. And so the setup is weak and the resolution is even weaker. The old bits are still fun, but they hardly warrant a third go-around. We already have the two movies. We can always just go back to them.
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.