Pitch Perfect 3 is the third in the Universal Pictures trilogy, written by Kay Cannon and directed by Trish Sie (Ok Go’s “Here It Goes Again Music Video,” Step Up All In). The Barden Bellas go global, reliving the magic of their college glory days while performing for an overseas tour. The story doesn’t give the viewers anything fresh from the other two films, but at the heart of it is a fitting end to the Bellas’ journey to success and sisterhood.
The Bellas have graduated and splintered off after winning world championships during the last film. Each Bella is facing her own post-graduation struggle, discovering that growing up and searching for employment is difficult. Beca (Anna Kendrick) specifically has quit her job as a producer, not feeling fulfilled with what she was doing. This is a common theme amongst the Bellas, with all of them not content with their current lives. Desperate and longing to spark the magic, they reunite and do a tour with the USO.
The film themes of failure at “adulting” and keeping relationships strong is what makes this film endearing. Pitch Perfect 3 really shows that the bond that the Bellas have is beyond their time in school. Beca and Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) bond is especially the strongest it’s ever been, primarily due to them living together after college. Their conversations and comedic beats are some of the highlights of the film. Likewise, the utter failure that the Bellas have been feeling before they reunited calls to a familar impasse that newly minted adults experience. Graduation should feel like an accomplishment – but sometimes, it’s the last time you have everything figured out. In these themes, the film gives us Bellas that are grounded and retable.
The Bella’s voices are on point, even letting some usual background singers steal the spotlight. In particular Flo (Chrissie Fit) leads part of verses and Cynthia-Rose (the talented Ester Dean) held it down for Sean Paul in their rendition of Sia’s “Cheap Thrills.” While the Bella’s sisterhood has always been present, it’s also been very white-led. To See Flo, Cynthia-Rose and Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) get some dialogue, jokes and stage time was way overdue.
Unfortunately, beyond these themes and solid singing, the overall storyline falls flat and brings nothing new to the trilogy. The Pitch Perfect franchise has a habit of raising the stakes by making the a cappella competition larger – from International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) to the World Championships in one European city to performing in multiple European cities. But these stakes vs the prior films do not feel as high. Even the factor of how the Bellas got to the USO tour feels forced.
Apart from the songs that the Bellas cover, the rest of the competition’s performances are dull. The band named Evermoist (not even joking) is supposed to be there to drive conflict, but they are very one-dimensional. Trinidad James, to the shock of everyone who knows who he is, is also in the film as another act. DJ Khaled’s ever-present cameo has an air of being stale and woefully late in this fast-paced digital culture. But the biggest misstep was the handling of Amy’s family storyline, which transformed the film briefly into a spy thriller. Rebel Wilson’s stunt work was enjoyable to watch, but the amount of time spent on this B-story was unnecessary and contrived. And, ultimately, it poorly attempts to provide a backstory behind one of the most standout characters in the franchise – for no good reason.
Pitch Perfect 3 is a film with plenty of flaws, but it’s the commitment of the actresses and the genuine love and respect you can tell they have for each other that sells it. From their performances, it often times feels like a glimpse into the last day of summer camp. The film may not recreate the quirky charm of the original, but the Bellas are in prime form and remind you why you followed them on their journey three movies later.