Movie review: Bellas give swan song in 'Pitch Perfect 3'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jan 14 2018 04:27 PM

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The first "Pitch Perfect" (directed by Jason Moore) debuted in 2012. This low-budget musical comedy film was about an all-female college acapella singing group called the Barden Bellas and their struggle to gain respect in the choral competition circuit. It gained unexpected critical and box office success, leading to two sequels, a second one in 2015 (directed by Elizabeth Banks) and this third and final one this year (directed by Trish Sie). The common scriptwriter for all three films is Kay Cannon.

It has been three years since their graduation from college, and the alumnae (Beca, Fat Amy, Chloe, Aubrey, Lilly, etc) of the Barden Bellas gathered together to listen to the current batch of Bellas (led by Emily) sing. Using Aubrey's Army connections, the Bellas joined a USO tour to entertain US troops in Europe. It turned out that they would also be in a competition with the other bands on the tour to see who would DJ Khaled pick to be open for him in his next concerts.

As you can deduce from that synopsis, there was barely any story to hang this latest "Pitch Perfect" outing on. This was practically just a series of acapella performances from the girls, which was not such a bad thing, but the rest of their scenes felt like empty fillers. The competition aspect, so much an integral part of the first two "Pitch Perfect" films, was reduced to what felt like a sorry minor afterthought, and with bands who played instruments (no fair match). Instead, we get an over-the-top hostage and rescue (to the tune of Britney Spears' "Toxic" no leass) sequence to spice up the mix.

I am not exactly a big fan of Anna Kendrick as Beca, even from the first "Pitch Perfect" film. While her singing voice was very good, I felt she was stiff and uncomfortable as a performer on the stage, especially when she was by herself. I felt it again this time around in that final concert scene led off by a solo (of a George Michael '90s hit) by Beca, which only livened up when she had her fellow Bellas singing along with her. One of the funniest zingers in the script was when one of the girls remarked about Beca's pinched face. Exactly what I was saying in my head in that scene!

It was Rebel Wilson's Fat Amy who was given her own special storyline which involved a reunion with her long estranged father Fergus Hobart (John Lithgow), who was involved with criminal activities back in Australia. While her loud Fat Amy jokes were hit and miss, seeing the hefty Wilson so incredibly "agile" in her intense fight scenes was really hilarious physical comedy. Are we seeing a preview of a possible Fat Amy spin-off series?

Chloe (Brittany Snow) and scene-stealing Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) get to hook up with new guys on the tour. Aubrey (Anna Camp) gets to yearn for her absentee dad. Stacie (Alexis Knapp) misses the tour because of an important arrival. As for the other girls, at least we get to hear Cynthia (Ester Dean) and Florencia (Chrissie Fit) sing, but still not a single solo note from Jessica (Kelley Jakle) and Ashley (Shelley Regner). Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) had one featured number with her new Bellas at the start, but got lost in the mix later on. 

Don't count out those two pesky running commentators Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins). They are now filming a documentary about the Bellas and so you can still hear their catty remarks on the side as they joined the Bellas on their USO tour.

There was nothing new in this latest "Pitch Perfect" movie other than a last chance to see the Bellas singing together. The best scenes were still the song numbers, with the awesome vocal harmony arrangements of familiar pop songs (in the initial riff-off, the performance montages, even during the hostage crisis!) as the this franchise was best loved for. It was only shallow mindless fun mostly. They've squeezed this birght idea dry, so goodbye is a good idea. Nevertheless, it was a final romp Bellas fans will still enjoy and perhaps even get misty-eyed for. 6/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."