My relationship with the Pitch Perfect franchise has been a long and tumultuous one. Back in 2012, an overly harsh review of the first instalment was one of my earliest posts on Oh! That Film Blog. Though my attitude towards the original has almost completely changed over the course of five years, 2015’s Pitch Perfect 2 still remains something of a damp squib in my mind. Now arrive at 2017 for a final farewell, the end of an a cappella era. Would Pitch Perfect 3 recapture the charm of the original, or would it continue down the disappointing path of the sequel?
Unfortunately, the answer is very much the latter. Pitch Perfect 3 throws us back in to the world of the former Barden Bellas, now graduated and mostly dissatisfied with the adult lives that they have carved out for themselves. After attending a reunion, Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Aubrey (Anna Camp) and co. decide to go out with one last bang as part of a USO tour across Europe, but on classic caper fashion, things don’t go to plan as they are greeted with hostile competition and an obstacle in the form of Fat Amy’s long lost and mysterious father (played by John Lithgow).
The problem with the film, at its very core, is that it feels completely disposable in every aspect. Not only do the majority of the cast look like they are simply going through the motions, but the musical set pieces are completely devoid of spark and the comedy falls totally flat. For a film franchiser that made a name of itself for the fun ‘riff-offs’ and classic song cover versions in previous instalments, the musical performances in Pitch Perfect 3 feel mediocre at best, and flat out bad at worst. What one was a franchise that evoked genuine chuckles in me has become something that forced me to continually look at my phone to check how much longer I had to endure it. Not helping the misfiring music and humour is a plot that could be described as thread bare if you were being kind, or completely aimless if you can’t summon enough festive cheer to be forgiving. Rather than employing call backs and fan favourites references to tie the franchise up in a neat, nostalgic bow, the filmmakers instead opt for a budget Charlie’s Angel’s-esque narrative climax that has nothing to do with the real heat of the Bellas, nor the real message and original fun of the Pitch Perfect universe as a whole.
You know a film has really failed to achieve its intended goal when the only sequence that evokes any kind of nostalgia or warm feelings towards the franchise and characters is a two minute montage of behind the scenes footage fun from the last five years. Call me old fashioned, but I want to happy and entertained during the actual runtime of a film, not just the credits!
The major faults of the film are very much down to the lacklustre narrative threads, but it is also clear to see that five years on from the original, Pitch Perfect’s stars have very much outgrown the roles and universe. Anna Kendrick as Beca is fine, along with the rest of the cast. Every single person does a ‘fine’ job, nothing spectacular, nothing truly bad, just plain old fine, and this fineness isn’t massively detrimental to the picture but it certainly doesn’t help to elevate the boring material with which the actresses have to work.
I was a fan of Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy character in the first instalment, in 2015 she started to feel like something of a one trick pony, and by the end of this episode I was 100% over it. It feels like Wilson in particular is suffering from not being quite as enthused about the character she created five years down the line. In the first Pitch Perfect, two out of every three Wilson jokes landed. In Pitch Perfect 3, it’s more like one out of every six, and for the comedic linchpin of a franchise, that’s just not good enough.
The hint of contemporary desperation is capped off my a more miss than hit central cameo performance by DJ Khaled. Playing himself as the headliner of the USO tour, deliberating over which act to choose to open for him on the night of his big show, Khaled fails in his attempts at zany humour, and his presence in the movie is going to age it horrendously in the years to come.
Overall, though my opinion of the original film may have changed over the course of a half decade, I’m absolutely certain that my view of Pitch Perfect 3 will remain the same. It is nowhere near funny enough and the much anticipated musical set pieces are nowhere near enjoyable and enigmatic enough. It might do a little something to please hardcore fans of the series, but to any neutral, it feels like nothing more than a tepid, throwaway end to a franchise that started with a really great first instalment and went down really, really fast.