At college, twittering damsels assemble to a singing group to raise a middle finger, and say: “aca-abolish the patriarchy!” They go by the name The Barden Bellas, which—especially in the kind of climate we’re living in now—is about as superhero-like as it sounds: The Bellas, lady knights of beatboxes and hums and girl power.
Kay Cannon’s 2012 original is laid on this very foundation and is perhaps what makes it amply aca-awesome, lending to the film (and Elizabeth Banks’ admirable follow-up in 2015) a peppy-colored, mint-conditioned sort of feminism that’s wild, frenzied, and impassioned, albeit being contained within a collegiate setting. In the 2018 finale directed by Trish Sie, the Bellas are thrown into the real world, doomed, as perhaps they have always been, to surrender to the music no matter how much vocal contorting they could muster.
It’s a tragic reading to a franchise enlivened by the relentless and self-deprecating musings of Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), who, in this film, is perhaps given the most agency. While her sisters are aca-anxious about their performance at a worldwide USO tour, in which DJ Khaled is to pluck an artist to be his opening act, Fat Amy is given an arc that ushers the new film to unexpected if confused (almost propagandist) directions. Interestingly, this sudden swerve leads directly to the film’s genuinely entertaining moments, like John Lithgow’s flaky Australian accent and Fat Amy’s sausage nunchucks. Which is to say that the screenplay, written by Cannon and Mike White, is off-key. If “Pitch Perfect 3” walked into an audition for new Bellas, it wouldn’t have made the cut.
The rest of the film is business-as-usual. The Bellas scramble to the stage and they’re a jukebox in delirium, spitting beats and belting vocals that rile up the crowd. This is new only to the 2012 film, which, as far as I’m concerned, is about the same film as the 2015 sequel. But where Banks’ film thrives in repetition, Sie’s follow-up lacks in thrust. There’s only somewhat of a competition here, somewhat of an impromptu riff-off, and somewhat of an adversary in a band unfortunately named Evermoist. The film tries to convince you it brews conflict among its characters, only to conveniently resolve it in the end credits. I have not, for the life of me, seen character arcs shrink into uninspired narrative footnotes as quick and as savage as it had been for some of the characters in “Pitch Perfect 3”.
At the center, still, is Beca Mitchell, the doe-eyed brunette who happens to be a music production Jedi. She gets a shining moment towards the end, warbling to George Micheal’s “Freedom! ’90.” It’s doubtless an affecting cover, one in which the loop machine and musical instruments are treated as friends. “Have faith in the sound,” at one point Beca sings. “It’s the one good thing I’ve got.” I’d go as far and say it’s genuinely moving if the film’s many flaws hadn’t seeped through its edges. By film’s end, it’s difficult to bother yearning for a proper resolution for anyone involved in “Pitch Perfect 3”—if they can hoist a half-baked finale for Anna Kendrick, among Hollywood’s most underrated jewels, they can do it to anyone—that is, except Universal Pictures itself.
Pitch Perfect 3
2018 / Comedy, Musical, Drama / US
Director: Trish Sie Screenplay: Kay Cannon, Mike White
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, John Lithgow, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Ruby Rose, DJ Khaled
After the highs of winning the World Championships, the Bellas find themselves split apart and discovering there aren’t job prospects for making music with your mouth. But when they get the chance to reunite for an overseas USO tour, this group of awesome nerds will come together to make some music, and some questionable decisions, one last time.