Who would’ve thought that a little comedy revolving around the world of a cappella would spawn a franchise totalling Box Office receipts of over $450 million worldwide? A sleeper-come-guilty pleasure comedy about the competitive world of a cappella, 2012’s Pitch Perfect benefitted from its own underdog temperament that saw it defy expectations and earn both critical and commercial acclaim. The sequel, 2015’s Pitch Perfect 2, very much followed the same formula, but if it wasn’t broke there was no need to fix it, and the unnecessary but still relatively amusing continuation all but solidified a third outing thanks to its monstrous response from audiences evidently taken with the cast’s combined musical and comedic prowess.
Pitch Perfect 3, whilst just as unnecessary as its predecessor, sadly reaches for aimlessness over familiarity with a plot that, whilst admittedly different from what came before, feels wholly inorganic to what the series has become known for; the opening sequence involving the cast leaping from an exploding yacht is a clear indication of how ludicrous the film intends to be.
Just why the collective ladies are jumping from a yacht before a mysterious figure (as they perform a spirited rendition of Britney Spears’s defining pop tune ‘Toxic’ no less) is answered over the course of its crisp 90 minute running time, but when it eventually reveals why, you may find yourself beyond the point of caring as the particular subplot that leads to this arc is so far removed from the series’ usual beats.
Parallel to the nonsense there’s the more expected storyline involving the Bellas performing for the troops on a USO tour, complete with a competition brewing amongst the line-up of acts on board as to who will be deemed talented enough to join DJ Khaled (the music producer playing himself) on his eventual tour. We all know where this will lead, but the film is at least smart enough to pepper itself with a slew of musical numbers that, once again, highlight the musical abilities of its committed cast; Anna Kendrick’s voice continues to impress throughout, with the finale rendition of George Michael’s ‘Freedom’ proving a real stand-out.
The Pitch Perfect films have never exactly been about fleshing out their characters to the fullest extent, but the previous entries at least delved enough into their individual personalities that we garnered a sense of who they were. Pitch Perfect 3, assuming we’re familiar enough with the characters, fails to lend anything further to the girls except for Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy whose long-absent father (John Lithgow, attempting a rather amusing Australian accent) resurfaces, revealing the character’s history is even further removed from the stereotype she adhered to in the previous films.
As disappointing as the film may be from a story point of view, the cast certainly can’t be put at fault as the natural chemistry formed between them is what essentially keeps it from falling apart. The subtle nuances in both Kendrick’s delivery and reactions are wonderfully amusing to view, Brittany Snow and Anna Camp lend a sense of fiery enthusiasm to their underwritten roles, and the always entertaining John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks as snarky commentators once again earn some of the biggest laughs with their culturally inappropriate remarks.
If you liked the first two films then there’s every possibility that you’ll dig this third go-around, but I personally didn’t find that to be the case as the desperation in trying to change up the formula is far too evident. I wanted to like this film, and I can’t fault the cast’s dedication, but if the writers can’t concoct a storyline outside the cheery performance numbers that doesn’t reek of unoriginality then it would’ve been best to let the Bellas go out on the high that was the finale of the first sequel.