The Pitch Perfect franchise has come a long way since its halcyon days of university radio stations and collegiate a capella competitions, but the growth is not without its pains. Pitch Perfect 3 sees the Barden Bellas reuniting once more for a USO tour, as the excuses to get these now-adult women together to sing the requisite musical numbers become more and more outlandish.
In Pitch Perfect, Anna Kendrick’s Beca is desperate to escape the ivory tower to head to LA and begin her career as a music producer. At the start of Pitch Perfect 3, she is a music producer, but the reality doesn’t live up to the expectation, and so Beca quits her job and heads to Europe with her motley gang of singing weirdos to entertain the troops. It’s Aubrey’s (Anna Camp) military dad who gets the girls the gig, however, and that tells you a lot about the stakes here. It’s hard to root for an a capella group to get a much-coveted spot as the opening act of DJ Khaled’s upcoming tour when they never seem to practice, perform, or in anyway work towards their apparent goal as serious musicians.
When the Bellas challenge the the other USO muscians, a girl rock band named Evermoist and a DJ named DragonNuts to their signature Riff Off, it’s hard not to feel for the other musicians who just want to do their sound check and probably take a nap before their performance starts.
It’s not just the competition that is half-heartedly constructed here. The stakes are so fleeting and nonsensical to mean almost nothing in Pitch Perfect 3. Will Beca get with the hot British music producer? Will Chloe (the always solid Brittany Snow) hook up with the hot American soldier? The movie doesn’t pretend to care. It’s all an excuse for the Bellas to dress up in militaristic and/or nationalistic outfits and sing some songs. But no one shows up to Pitch Perfect for the plot, and the movie itself seems to know that. At one point, Chloe exclaims, “I knew there would be a competition!” as if the script heard the Bellas’ earlier lament that there wasn’t one and half-heartedly created it mid-movie to give the girls a tangible goal.
As with the previous movies, the best parts of the narrative and character development have little to do with a competition or potential love interests, but in the found family that is the Barden Bellas. Consider how damning it otherwise is that two of the main love interests from the previous movies are written out with a casual conversation in the first act. No one notices, and it’s unlikely anyone in the audience will care either.
It’s also unfortunate then that Pitch Perfect 3 feels the need to add more completely irrelevant male characters to take their place. Rather than focus solely on the relationships of the Bellas or give the film’s characters of color more to do past the occasional racist joke, Pitch Perfect 3 instead spins wheels with the aforementioned dude love, or other undesired tangents like the introduction of John Lithgow as Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) estranged father. While Lithgow’s Aussie gangster character is wholly unnecessary and weirdly out-of-place in this film that is ostensibly about women singing, he does lead to an action scene involving Wilson on a yacht that is both completely ridiculous and utterly delightful. I’m not sure if Pitch Perfect 3 would have been a better movie if it had gone all in on the aca-tion front, but I do know that I want to see it.
Sadly, that version of the aca-triogy’s final installment was never meant to be. Fingers crossed for the inevitable revival that will probably be announced in a scant few years. In the meantime, this is the supposed swan song for the popular trilogy. Come for the jokes, the song and dance numbers, and the female camaraderie. Stay for… well, for those things. That’s what this movie has going for it.