PITCH PERFECT 3 – Review
This month we’ve been talking about the middle of a trilogy while another trilogy finishing up hasn’t been getting a whole lot of attention, perhaps because it’s a rarity among trilogies in that it’s not a block buster action one or in the horror genre. It’s a comedy. But three’s not been the magic number for THE HANGOVER or MEET THE PARENTS (which came to a most unfunny conclusion with MEET THE FOCKERS). Perhaps the quality that makes this trilogy even more unique will be its saving grace. You see it’s a musical comedy, well really a comedy set in the world of music. Acapella harmony competitions. Back in 2012 the producers of this under-marketed low-budget flick probably never thought that it would spawn two follow-ups. But here we are, over five years later, as the ladies warm up their pipes for PITCH PERFECT 3. And to spin a cinema twist on an old familiar phrase, the franchise aint’ over till the Fat Amy sings (and just a reminder you, the character embraces that moniker).
So the original “Bellas” are out in the real world, and it’s not very melodic out there for them. As a matter of fact, on this particular day, Beca (Anna Kendrick) loses her job at a big music agency (one too many dopey divas). Her roommate, the unemployed (and unemployable) Amy (Rebel Wilson) fails to cheer her up. Luckily her other ‘roomie’ Aubrey (Anna camp) has great news: the current Barden Bellas want the old gang to reunite for a show down at the Brooklyn Aquarium. The gals arrive in their old stewardess-style stage outfits, but the new Bella group leader Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) tells them that it’s a non-singing appearance. Beca and his pals look on with sadness as Emily’s new troupe wows the crowd. Later, over drinks, Aubrey has great news. Her father, a big military honcho, has invited them to be part of a big USO tour of Europe. And of course it’s also a big competition. Rap superstar (I’ll take their word for it) DJ Khaled (himself) is fronting the event and will choose one of the four acts involved to be his world tour openers. Stacie (Alexis Knapp) must bow out for …ahem…personal reasons, so Emily takes a break from college to join her old sisters. But things aren’t going to be easy for them. They’ve gotta’ out sing a male country/western band, a hot hip-hop duo. and, their fiercest rivals, a hard-rockin’ female quartet named “Evermoist” (really). On the road overseas Chloe (Britanny Snow) falls hard for their hunky military liaison, as does the shy Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) for one of the rappers. Beca flirts with Khaled’s smooth aide, as two other Bellas deal with daddy issues. Aubrey’s father seems uninterested to seeing her sing, while Amy runs into the father that left her many years ago, the charming grifter Fergus (John Lithgow). And it’s all be recorded by that smarmy duo Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins) who are shooting a “whatever happened to” documentary about the women. So will the Bellas triumph or will their dreams of music superstardom fall flat? Or maybe sharp. Or just “pitch-y’.
Unlike the two previous entries which tried to divvy up the screen time between the Bellas, this supposed final installment really zeroes in on the group’s version of “the odd couple”. I’m speaking first of Kendrick as the smart, focused Beca who’s almost the kid sister of Jason Bateman (in his usual TV and film roles) in that she’s at her best tossing out droll, deadpan retorts to the zany antics going on all around her. That’s not to say she doesn’t get in on all the silly stuff, but there’s an accessible intelligence that propels her scathing wit. Plus Beca’s a real music savant, turning junk into melodic gold. The other half of “the couple” is comedy cyclone Wilson, the human “party animal” with no filter. There’s an energetic joy to Wilson’s performance as she wrecks havoc at nearly every swanky shindig she crashes. This time she gets to show a bit more of her vulnerable side, usually obscured by this whirling dervish, as she tries to deal with her mixed feelings over her newly resurfaced papa. But then the cartoon slapstick sets in as she defies physics in some ludicrous action set pieces.Luckily Wilson is able to deliver on all levels. Speaking of pop, Lithgow is almost doing an “evil twin” of his recent role in DADDY’S HOME 2 as he tries to repair old broken bridges with daughter Amy. Despite his tender pleading, he lets us know that Fergus will show his true colors eventually.
The film really seems at odds with itself, hoping to surprise while making sure it repeats bits from earlier efforts. It opens with a big musical number that suddenly switches into an action film cliché, becoming more Bond or Bourne than Bellas (running from a fireball….hmmm okay) . And while the other two flicks had entertaining “rom com”-style subplots for Beca and Amy, this one dismisses Jesse (Skylar Astin) and Bumper (Adam Devine) with a couple of “tossed off” lines of dialogue in the first ten minutes or so. As for “call-backs” (or the musical “reprise”), another “song improv battle” or “riff off” with their USO rivals quickly becomes tired and tedious. Plus the choreography has become so intricate it’s hard to believe that they can stay on pitch, let alone remember the lyrics, during these mathematically plotted moves. That action final act seems contrived to keep us from drifting off, while the last big number wraps up everything too neat and tidy. The Bellas have had an impressive cinematic concert, but with this scattershot sequel they’re more than ready to take a final bow. More “tepid applause” than “encore” or “bravo”.
2 Out of 5