It has been widely stated that Pitch Perfect 3 is, indeed, the last call for the Bellas, the award-winning all-girls singing group from Barden University that we first met in 2012's Pitch Perfect and that still hadn't worn out its welcome in the Elizabeth Banks-directed 2015 sequel Pitch Perfect 2.
While we've been promised that this Trish Sie-directed sequel to the sequel is the end of the road for the Bellas, it's hard not to imagine Hollywood digging up footage 50 years from now and bringing back the Bellas for a remake of Young@Heart.
Fortunately, I'll be dead by then.
While the Pitch Perfect films have never been cinematic masterpieces, they've succeeded in being immensely entertaining, female-driven and female led empowerment flicks that have soared on the strength of an infinitely likable cast and their rather remarkable, natural chemistry. Pitch Perfect 3 is still largely female driven. Pitch Perfect 3 is again directed by a female, Trish Sie (Step Up All In). Pitch Perfect 3 is even written by the same female who has written all three films, Kay Cannon.
What has been up to now a layered, involving conversation about the collective voices of women and how our institutions silence them packaged in good-hearted, energetic and entertaining films falls completely flat as director Trish Sie has reduced our beloved Bellas to one-note gender stereotypes forced to act their way out of absurd set-ups, faux conflicts, and the usually reliable Kay Cannon's wooden, stilted dialogue and ridiculously silly action and musical sequences.
It would have been absurd to have expected Pitch Perfect 3 to have been as delightfully fresh and inspired as was the original film given our thorough familiarity with the Bellas and the simple reality that what's cute and entertaining in college becomes a little close to pathetic when lived out into adulthood. However, it seems like Pitch Perfect 3 violates its own rules at every turn with the Bellas repeatedly finding themselves in not just impossible to believe circumstances but just plain stupid circumstances.
We learn rather quickly that for the most part the Bellas have gone on to their own individual lives after their post-college glory days, except for the last film's Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), the newbie who'd been tasked with carrying on with the Bellas as the remainder of the gals graduated. Beca (Anna Kendrick) has found her dream job as a music producer, but as we're introduced to her once again it's abundantly clear that her dream has become a nightmare. She still rooms with Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), who seems to have found a way to make at least a modest income performing as Fat Amy Winehouse.
If you laughed at that, I'm going to hunt you down and hit you.
Of course, we wouldn't have a film if the Bellas weren't getting back together. Now, would we?
In this case, the opportunity to perform on a U.S.O. tour courtesy of Aubrey (Anna Camp) and her perpetually absent military father provides the vehicle for the reunion. While such a noble gesture initially generates all kinds of warm n' fuzzies, such goodwill is quickly snatched away when we discover that said tour will also be a competition between all the bands on the tour including Evermoist (eye roll), country crooners Saddle Up, and rap/hip-hop duo Young Sparrow and DJ Dragon Nutz. The winner will get an opening spot for DJ Khaled on the closing night of the tour.
Silly people. You thought this was about the troops?
While the whole idea of a U.S.O. tour has promise for at least some modestly entertaining material, it's as if Cannon and Sie didn't trust the material enough and had to toss in multiple threads that go nowhere. Fat Amy becomes rattled by the sudden appearance of her long lost father (John Lithgow), a wealthy evildoer of sorts whose agenda is about as surprising as the actual contest results.
Oh please, you know damn well how this all ends up.
When Fat Amy doesn't go along with her father's plans, a subsequent action sequence aboard daddy's yacht is so mind-numbingly overplayed that one can't decide whether to giggle or weep.
The absurdity of all these extraneous obstacles ruins any chance the film has at creating a meaningful closing film that transitions these young women into adulthood with valued life lessons and our own fond memories of the trilogy. One scene, in particular, involving the complete destruction of Khaled's ultra-luxury hotel suite is a throwaway scene that is quickly forgotten despite the inevitable hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, likely injuries and the fact that the Bellas continue to be treated well on what is actually a charity tour despite amassing remarkable debts and liabilities for themselves and the U.S.O.
There are still times when Pitch Perfect 3 manages to work, mostly because Anna Kendrick can't not be likable and Rebel Wilson can't not be funny. Together? I'd watch them in just about anything EXCEPT for this film another time and Young@Heart 50 years from now. It takes a special kind of script to make Lithgow look bad, but such is the case here as nearly every scene he's in comes to a screeching halt. Surprisingly, the same is also true for Elizabeth Banks as the awkwardly placed sequences involving a documentary being filmed never feel authentic and are completely devoid of spark.
The film's best laughs come in its closing 5-10 minutes, and while the film's closing number is a winner it only reinforces that Pitch Perfect 3 is willing to violate its own rules for the sake of a warm n' fuzzy ending that is completely believable yet wholly unsatisfying.
One can only hope this truly is last call, Pitches.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic