Back in the fall of 2012, Pitch Perfect brought a capella music to the mainstream, giving Anna Kendrick a top-ten Billboard hit in the process with ”Cups” (albeit the pop version). The 2015 aca-tastic sequel, which marked Elizabeth Banks’ feature directorial debut, also shone as it continued the escapades of the Barden Bellas and made Hailee Steinfeld a household name, launching her music career in the process.
Now we get the trilogy’s wrap-up with Pitch Perfect 3, and though it doesn’t hit nearly the high notes of its two predecessors, it still (albeit barely) flies more than it fails. Where it falters due to ho-hum subplots and pratfall silliness, it’s rescued by its music and the chemistry and affability of its cast. The entire Bella posse is back, led by Kendrick, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, and Brittany Snow. The prequels’ male characters, including Jesse, Benji, and Bumper, are alas nowhere to be found.
The action picks up in medias res aboard a fancy yacht, where the Bellas are performing “Toxic” to an unseen (and presumably evil) trio of men. In the middle of the performance Fat Amy (Wilson) crashes through the ceiling, blasts the men with a fire extinguisher, and jumps off the boat with the Bellas as it explodes. Wait, what?
Flashback three weeks, and we find Beca (Kendrick) hating life as a music producer while rooming with Amy and Chloe (Snow). When Emily (Steinfeld) invites her old pals to a reunion show, the Bella alums get back together, only to discover Emily was inviting them to watch the current Bellas (as they perform by a snazzy rendition of “Sit Still, Look Pretty”), not to perform. Pangs of aca-nostalgia bubble up, leading Aubrey (Camp) to book the old-school Bellas on a USO tour in Europe for one last round of performances.
It’s here where the throw-away subplots start to kick in, including a pointless competition between the Bellas, a country group, a rap act, and the all-girl rock group Evermoist (wait, what?) for a spot on DJ Khaled’s tour. We also learn about Fat Amy’s upbringing, as her estranged father Fergus (John Lithgow, tripping on an Australian accent) enters the picture.
The real star of Pitch Perfect 3 is of course the music, and it here where we’re reminded what made the first two films the stellar hits they were. A capella(ish) versions of Sia’s “Cheap Thrills”, George Michael’s “Freedom! ‘90”, and, yes, the inevitable riff-off are all sing-along treats that keep the film’s head above water. And the cast put its all into it, clearly happy to be in for one last trip, including Banks and John Michael Higgins as the ever-inappropriate John and Gail, filming the gang’s ride into the sunset for a documentary.
In the end, Pitch Perfect 3 isn’t the top-notch send-off the Bellas deserve, letting them go with more of a silly whimper than a bang; it’s far more aca-demic than aca-mazing, but heck, two out of three ain’t bad.