PITCH PERFECT 3

It’s doubtful anyone watching Pitch Perfect 3 won’t have seen at least one of the previous installments, hence why little time is spent catching the audience up to The Barden Bellas. The movie begins as a spy caper, set to an a cappella performance of Britney Spear’s “Toxic” aboard a yacht that explodes in a fury of flames just as Beca (Anna Kendrick) and Patricia, a.k.a. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), narrowly jump to safety.

Flashback a few weeks and Beca is working with Pimp-Lo (Moises Arias) to put the finishing touches on his new rap single. The cut Beca produces is sleek and smooth, but painfully generic and boring. When Pimp-Lo wildly and comically insists his cut is better, Beca plays it with a condescending sneer. Though it’s not exactly a radio hit, Pimp-Lo’s version has personality, originality, and creativity, even if it is ridiculous. After the screening, my wife informed me this conflict between generic and personal was the overall message of Pitch Perfect 2, but in that sequel, the message will stay; Beca quits her job citing artistic differences.

The overall message of Pitch Perfect 3 is to let go. Let go of the glory days of college and let go of dreaming dreams and start living them. Naturally, that won’t come until the movie’s final five minutes, but at least getting there isn’t a straight path.

The plot: with little else to do, other than throw a pity party, the Bellas reunite to join a traveling USO show competition. The prize: the chance to open for DJ Khaled (playing himself). The competitors: a southern fried rock band, Saddle Up; a lesbian alt-rock group, Evermoist; and hip-hop duo, DJ Dragon Nutz.

As the groups tour through Italy and France, Beca sparks something with DJ Khaled’s producer, Theo (Guy Burnet), Chloe (Brittany Snow) fawns over hunky serviceman, Chicago (Matt Lanter), Aubrey (Anna Camp) continually tries to reunite with her father while Patricia tries to figure out why her long-absent father (John Lithgow) has suddenly re-appeared.

None of these stories are sufficiently fleshed-out, and no one really cares. Pitch Perfect 3 is about seeing the Bellas once more, riff-offs and musical numbers, and just a few aca-puns. A lot of the jokes fall flat, particularly the ones from running commentator John Michael Higgins. Curiously, those jokes seem targeted at my father-in-law, who wouldn’t see the movie if you paid him. Why the hell are they wasting time trying to make him laugh? At least the writers crank out the humor as fast, giving the audience little time to sit and mull over the duds.

Matching that breakneck pace, director Trish Sie gives the audience nothing but fan service, not to mention an inordinate amount of whip-pans and “whoosh” sound effects. There’s an awful lot of silliness, hijinks, and shenanigans but Pitch Perfect 3 is fun in an effervescent sort of way. Like a cheap bottle of champagne, it may not be your favorite, but it’ll do the trick.

Directed by Trish Sie
Written by Kay Cannon and Mike White
Story by Kay Cannon
Based on the book by Mickey Rapkin
Produced by Elizabeth Banks, Paul Brooks, Max Handelman
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, John Lithgow, Matt Lanter, Guy Burnet
Universal Pictures, Rated PG-13, Running time 93 minutes, Opens December 22, 2017