Film Review – Pitch Perfect 3
Pitch Perfect 3
Pitch Perfect (2012) came as lightening in a bottle. You had a handful of talented actresses with excellent chemistry, coming together to tell an entertaining story about accepting others for their differences and following your dreams. It was this small film that happened to come at the right place at the right time. And although Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) and now Pitch Perfect 3 (2017) have flashes of what made these characters such a joy to watch, it’s apparent that this series ran out of steam quick, fast, and in a hurry.
Even the narrative itself realizes this. The screenplay (Kay Cannon/Mike White) and direction (Trish Sie) constantly remind us that the acapella group – The Barden Bellas – are no longer college kids. These are grown up women trying to adjust to a life of jobs, deadlines, and bills. It’s not easy being adult (hell, I’m still struggling with it myself) and the Bellas’ transition to this period comes with some growing pains. In an early scene, they meet up for a reunion while watching a younger group perform on stage. Seeing young people dance and sing with so much energy gives them a harsh dose of reality: these aren’t the good old days.
But just because the narrative is aware of this does not necessarily make Pitch Perfect 3 any smarter or insightful. In fact, it may even make things worse. The biggest problem of the two sequels is that the original Pitch Perfect said all that it needed to say about these characters and their various story arcs. We already know that Beca (Anna Kendrick) will pursue her dream of being part of the music industry. We already know that Aubrey (Anna Camp) has learned to work with other people. We’ve seen how Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) has learned to step out and become more social. Even Amy (Rebel Wilson) has come to love and respect the rest of the girls, even with her brash exterior.
All of this was explored in the first film, and with each sequel the returns have diminished at a rapid pace. Even the two commentators Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins) who were once very funny have become stale and played out with their snide and insulting remarks. By the time we get to the third entry, the narrative is desperate to come up with a reason to bring the girls back together. This time around, the Bellas enter a U.S.O. tour, entertaining the troops while hopping around Europe. To make things more interesting, they learn that each of the participants of the tour (including bands that play instruments) are all competing to be the opening act for D.J. Khaled, who apparently has the keys to superstardom.
Whatever. The plot is thin and meaningless. There are no true stakes here, and as a result we have to sit through a number of narrative threads that lead to nowhere. The worst example involves Amy and the emergence of her long lost father (John Lithgow). Their relationship is pointless and acts completely opposite to everything else that’s going on. By the time the story reaches its apex, we begin to wonder if we’re actually watching a whole different movie.
It’s a lucky thing, then, that the chemistry between the actresses works so well. That’s the saving grace of Pitch Perfect 3: that no matter how dumb and ridiculous things get, the filmmakers understand that the true heart resides in the friendships the characters have with each other. The music and singing, as it were, is top notch, and when the Bellas perform we can feel how comfortable they are with one another and how much fun they’re having. Each of their unique personalities contrast in humorous ways, and each get a moment to shine in the spotlight. Even the forgotten members of the group get a shout out for being the forgotten members of the group, that’s gotta count for something.
You know how in comedy sitcoms, the main characters are introduced to a problem that they spend the entire episode trying to fix, and then by the end everything is resolved in a nice, neat order? That’s what we get with Pitch Perfect 3. No matter how much difficulty the Bellas face moving into the real world, the narrative treats it all like superfluous fluff, easily fixed or forgotten about by the end credits. Any type of problem is brushed away with ease. I suppose we shouldn’t be thinking about things all that seriously, since this is essentially a lighthearted comedy. When this is about the Bellas, their interactions, and their musical performances, we’re reminded why we were so drawn to that first film. When we have to endure the poor plotting, forgettable side stories, and thinly drawn themes, we’re reminded why this series probably should’ve ended two films ago.