Back in 2012 Pitch Perfect showed up on the scene during the height of the High School Musical and Glee teen singing craze of films. What was most novel about it was that it was fresh, smartly written (at least as far as most 21st century comedies tend to go), had some fun song mash-ups going on, and generally was among the best of genre’s film offerings. It was a few years later that Pitch Perfect 2 came along and was so unbelievably horrible that it made one have to rethink if they even liked the first one at all. It was so bad I was genuinely not looking forward to this latest outing, fully expecting it to be even worse than the second installment. Well Pitch Perfect 3, I owe it an apology; in fact, it’s not all that far behind the first one.
The songs aren’t as much the central focus this time around, though there’s a handful of toe-tapping set pieces. Opening up on a yacht with the Bellas singing away, suddenly Fat Amy (b) crashes through the ceiling and explosions start going off everywhere. Cut back to three weeks in the past and the main thread of the story kicks off; this time the girls are having a hard time in their various careers and they miss performing with each other, so when one of the Bella’s fathers has a connection that can land them a spot on a USO tour across Europe they all jump at the chance. The characters are back to being more utilized and a few even given some deeper backstories.
It’s as if lead writer Kay Cannon had entirely lost her way after the first film, leading to the second being an almost angry and bitter script. However whatever muse seems to have come back around once again, because now she even remembered that Bella star Beca Mitchell (played by Anna Kendrick) was originally given a backstory of being a DJ with a knack of mixing beats along with her own vocals and it’s used again for solid effect.
The film is also a bit more self-aware, with a pair of the background character Bellas even making a few jokes about how their names are barely ever mentioned, let alone either of them actually having any lines.
When the Bellas make it to their first stop and meet up with the other bands, it rapidly turns into a multi-band mashup (it’s their first performance with the other bands so the ladies of course get their butts handed to them by a combination of a DJ named Dragon Nuts, a country and western group called Saddle Up, and a neo-punk all girl group called Ever Moist (which is led by the always amazing Ruby Rose as Calamity).
It’s not high-concept comedy, to be sure, however at least there’s no barf of piss jokes. The film does somewhat redeem the comedy duo of acapella competition commentators Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberger (Elizabeth Banks) and John Smith (John Michael Higgins) by giving them at least some screen time to banter between each other, but now the writers are having to really reach for it to keep coming up with reasons why these two commentators are following along this band of singers long after their college competition days are over.
If you liked the first one, you’ll likely enjoy this one as well. If you didn’t like the first one, or if you didn’t see the first one and just can’t stand it when perfectly good characters suddenly start belting into song, this might be one to save until it’s on Netflix.
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