The newest installment of the Pitch Perfect franchise about college a capella competition and the fictional Barden Bellas finds them mostly retreading greatest hits and tapping into the formula that has made the previous two films so charming, but it ends up a little flat in key places.
They simply can’t top the zaniness of part two, making this seem a little more lackluster. It’s still the Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson show, although the film does try to give some extra time to heretofore less explored characters, to varied effect. But the film’s central conceit of “getting the band back together” for a nostalgia-fueled USO tour just doesn’t work except seemingly as a backdrop for our stars to travel through Europe. All of our characters seem to have the same problem– life isn’t working out exactly as they planned one year out of college. While this seems a decent commentary on the plight of the entire millennial generation, it just isn’t interesting enough to sustain itself.
It shines best, as in previous films, in the lavish musical numbers the Bellas put on, this time joined by an all-girl rock group names Evermoist (yes, really), and alt country band Whiskey Shivers plays a group called Saddle Up. All of them are “competing” for a spot to share the stage with DJ Khaled (played unconvincingly by himself) in a final show, and here’s the real showstopper: Khaled is a black hole of charisma, and every moment he’s on screen the film grinds to a screeching halt.
Another problem lies in a strange side-plot involving Amy’s father, played by John Lithgow with a not-quite convincing Aussie accent. Apparently he’s an international arms dealer trying to reunite with his daughter. This allows for a strange third act where Rebel Wilson gets to play action star while the rest of the Bellas perform Britney Spears’ “Toxic” to distract him. It’s fun, and it’s good to see Wilson stretch herself as an actor, but it’s strangely off-tone and just doesn’t work as part of the larger film.
Matt Lanter (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Timeless) also shows up as a military officer assigned to escort the Bellas, and ends up being a romantic interest. Lanter personally is fine (and indeed charming), but his character has nowhere to go. What’s really missing from this are some of the more interesting male foils from previous films (Adam DeVine, Flula Borg, and Ben Platt. . . oh, how we miss you, Ben Platt). This was obviously a deliberate creative choice to focus on our female cast, and I applaud that. But compared to their previous films, Lanter and Lithgow just sort of take up space. DJ Khaled takes up negative space and drags the entire movie down.
And, as with all of the movies, I can always use more Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins.
Fans of the franchise will likely enjoy this movie– its script is still chock-full of jokes and the musical numbers. . . err. . . hit all the right notes. It’s too bad the entire package is not quite as good.
2.25 out of 5