PITCH PERFECT 3 review by Rahul Vedantam – The Bellas reunite to sing for the USO

PITCH PERFECT 3 review by Rahul Vedantam – The Bellas reunite to sing for the USO

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It’s pretty incredible how successful the first PITCH PERFECT film was, given the rarity of all female led comedies in the early 2010’s (man, how seminal was BRIDESMAIDS?), the even rarer feat of making a cappella a desirable form of music, and the rarest accomplishment of starting a cultural trend of using a cup as a percussion instrument. But the zeitgeist has moved on, and director Trish Sie knows it. Clocking in at a short 93 minutes, the new film barely even figures that out, adding an out of the blue action sequence near the climax to pad the presentation. PITCH PERFECT 3 has got some great one-liners, good songs, neatly wraps up its characters’ stories, and never takes itself too seriously, but lacks any of the bombast of the previous films.

Gone are all the very funny guys as love interests from the previous films, replaced by two bland hunks for the lead girls to work off, but never do much themselves. Gone is David Cross hosting a secret Bond villain-esque riff-off with the Green Bay Packers competing as one of the teams. Instead the girls challenge a group of bands to the riff-off, who barely participate before picking up their instruments and playing their own song together. Beca (Anna Kendrick) even lampshades the obligatory nature of this saying “I don’t know why we keep challenging people to these, we keep on losing.” And that about sums up PITCH PERFECT 3 in general, a toned-down facsimile of the previous films.

There are some glimpses of the previous outing, such as when the only two members of the group lacking lines in the last film get two quick meta jokes making fun of this: “Did she just say our names?” “No way.” Or when Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins reprise their roles as misogynistic a cappella commentators taking this too seriously. And even more bombastic is Rebel Wilson’s action sequence (she plays Fat Amy), which involves John Lithgow in a questionable Aussie accent playing her gangster father, kidnapping the Bellas to get to Fat Amy’s money. It is incredible jarring, clearly thrown in just to give the plot some drive where very little exists elsewhere, and doesn’t work too well in context. But in a microcosm, it has some of the best laughs of the film.

The main plot revolves around the Bellas getting back together for a reunion after a montage of misery in their post graduate lives. Aubrey (Anna Camp) holds the answer for their woes, as her dad works for the military and can get them into a performance tour across Europe’s most fun cities to shoot in, and luckily for them there is a competition involved. DJ Khaled (who plays a surprisingly large role) is following the tour and will pick the best band to open for him during the final televised performance. The stakes aren’t that high though, as it’s clear from the beginning no one really cares about winning, and they are really just glad to be together again. And in the end, that’s essentially what PITCH PERFECT 3 is, perhaps even for the audience.

PITCH PERFECT 3 opens December 22, 2017

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