Director: Trish Sie
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hana Mae Lee, Hailee Steinfeld, John Lithgow, Ruby Rose with John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks
Plot: The Bellas find themselves has-beens, graduated and forgotten. Then, Aubrey (Camp) manages to get them onto a gig, against actual bands with actual instruments.
I was a little worried for Pitch Perfect 3. I feel worried for any film released on the same week as Star Wars. Surely, the Bellas’ final performance would be lost amid the rush to see topless Adam Driver. But as the cinema around me filled fast, I suddenly understood the genius of Pitch Perfect’s timing. Pitch Perfect 3 has become the anti-Star Wars movie, a film for people not bothered about the sound of a lightsabre duel but more entertained by some decent acapella singing.
But marketing aside, what of the actual film? Pitch Perfect holds a very uncertain standing for me, a first film that was truly outstanding (I am craving to watch it right now), and a follow-up that was crass, unoriginal and unfunny. Would Pitch Perfect 3 turn the corner or continue the trend of diminishing returns? The answer is somewhat in the middle. The third and final Pitch Perfect is definitely an improvement on the second, a finer balance for what makes a good movie. The useless characters have been stripped away (the men who didn’t really bring anything to the second film are neatly written out early on), and there is a sense of a more stream-lined story, at least to begin with. At the same time, this is definitely following the example of the second, where the gags are put in a more central position than characterisation and drama. Just because the third is much better at cracking jokes doesn’t mean that warm heart’s absence isn’t felt. Perhaps the greatest strength of the third movie is that it comes at a time when there is a story to be told. In the last film, there was a good debate where the more serious acapella singers were being satirised: yes, in the first film, the competition was fun, but as college comes to a close, there are bigger concerns that a singing club. However, while Pitch Perfect 2 fumbled that message away, it comes back harder and stronger in the third. Graduated, holding down jobs they have no love for, the Barden Bellas dream of the days when they had the singing group. It adds a desperate tone to the movie, as the band members cling onto any chance of performing live. They are hilariously out of their comfort zone in this film, proven when they are matched against bands with actual instruments and… god forbid… actual songs. Even if they succeed in having a comeback, realistically, they will return to their mundane lives afterwards, suggesting that there is a sad futility to the events of this movie. Even the commentators John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks (always on the side-lines, yet always delivering that perfect joke just when you need it), feel like desperate shadows of their former selves, clinging to their sarcastic insults, as if it is all they’ve got left of the glory days of acapella singing. Little beats like that make Pitch Perfect 3 much stronger than the second: it is pleasingly uncomfortable to see your beloved characters in such a despairing position.
But again, the jokes make sure that this isn’t a melancholy drama about washed up singers on a comeback tour. The girls are on fine form comedy wise here, a true ensemble. While Pitch Perfect 2 chose the best characters and forgot the others, there is a better all-round comedy style here. Anna Kendrick is definitely the lead, but willing to stand back and let louder characters do their thing. Rebel Wilson, while given lengthy sub-plots, isn’t as over-bearing. There is fine support from Brittany Snow and Anna Camp, landing the kind of jokes that remind you there is more to their characters than the other movies perhaps suggested. The film even begins to tackle recurring themes in the movies, highlighting a sense of self-awareness not in the other films. A Riff-Off goes horrendously wrong when attempted outside of college. Chrissie Fit calls the script-writer out when a supporting character fires off a chunky bit of exposition. There is a lot to laugh about in Pitch Perfect 3. Sadly, the film does fall into the usual Rebel Wilson trap. There is a frustrating side-story where Wilson’s father, John Lithgow (not as pleasant a father figure as Daddy’s Home made out), pops up, a career criminal and bit of a scumbag. When the story nose-dives into a kidnap movie for twenty minutes, it is hard not to think that Rebel Wilson simply fancied being the next Liam Neeson. The film does land some of the jokes, while it is there. The fight scenes are well done and when there is not one, but two, Britney Spears renditions, this blogger is going to be hard-pressed to dislike the moment. But it feels far from what Pitch Perfect is meant to be. Throw in a jarring Australian accent and John Lithgow sadly feels like the film’s weakest link. Not Ruby Rose, as the critics will have you believe. Yes, Ruby Rose might represent that frustratingly entitled image of the younger generation, but that turns out to be exactly what the character needs, meaning that Rose helps the movie, rather than hindering it. The end result is a satisfying end, if a little wobblier than you would like it.
Final Verdict: Pitch Perfect 3 finds a pleasing end to the successful series, if a little shaky in the final moments.