Pitch Perfect 3 is what some might call a fan service film. This essentially means that, while it could appeal to everyone, it mostly exists to please the already established fans of the franchise. All the character quirks and jokes that began with the original in 2012 and carried on through its 2015 sequel are on full display here. This is a film that knows what it is and doesn’t make any qualms about what it’s selling. Much like its predecessors, it elevates itself due to the winning chemistry of its cast and musical numbers that become instantly catchy. What else could you want from a franchise that has thrived on these elements? In fact, its positives shine so much that I could forgive the out of place espionage subplot (more on that later).
In a nutshell, Pitch Perfect 3 is about growing up and that awkward stage where you feel like you really haven’t found your place yet. Now graduated from college and out in the real world where it takes more than a song to get by, the Bellas are back. After the highs of winning the World Championships, the Bellas find themselves split apart and discovering there aren’t job prospects for making music with your mouth. But when they get the chance to reunite for an overseas USO tour, the group comes together to make some music, and some questionable decisions, one last time.
There’s a streak of self-reflection throughout Pitch Perfect 3, pointing out the formulaic tics of the franchise. “Is there a competition? There always has to be a competition,” a manic Chloe (Brittany Snow) breathlessly asks. Of course, there is. On the tour, which is sponsored by DJ Khaled (playing himself), four groups will compete to open for him on the last night. I mean we get a band called “Evermoist” because of this and I’ll take that for a cheap laugh.
At only 90 minutes, Pitch Perfect 3 is perfectly breezy. It comes in, does its job, pleases the fans and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The novelty isn’t quite the same as it was in 2012 but that’s to be expected. The concept isn’t as fresh as it once was but all the necessary elements are on display for a fun time at the movies. Music has always been one of the franchise’s biggest attributes and that continues to be the case here. The riff-off has been a standard of the first two films and it gets one last go-round here for one of the best musical moments of the movie. Setting it apart this time around is that, realizing that riffing off in a public setting could seem a bit ridiculous, the film pokes fun at it while still providing some solid covers of familiar tunes. All the music in the third installment is memorable, from the rousing finale of George Michael’s “Freedom! 90” to the opening cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” which finally finds its place as an overlaying theme for a high-tension espionage montage.
That brings me to what seems to be an issue for some who have seen the film. Adding to the drama are some serious daddy issues. Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) long-lost father (John Lithgow) turns up for reconciliation, but he’s got more nefarious ulterior motives, and the girls have to put their special ACA-skills to work to thwart him. Yes, it’s very out of place and ridiculous but it presents the plot with a bit of self-awareness that allows it to work within the world created in the film. I found myself laughing with the moment rather than at it and that’s a sign that, despite how silly it is, the film manages to make it work in a weird way. We’re always seeking originality in movies and I’d have to say that this is probably the only spy movie subplot that will involve a choreographed performance of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” deployed as a diversionary tactic.
Even after three outings, the cast still doesn’t miss a beat. Even though Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson are still the stars here, the film is more of an ensemble piece for the entire cast. Every member gets a moment to shine and just about all of them gets a laugh. Also, if you’ve been a fan since the beginning, every member of the group gets a fitting conclusion to their stories. There’s a lot of joy watching cast who seems to really get along and enjoy what they’re doing and that infectious energy continues to be the greatest asset of the franchise.
How can I defend a film that is currently 31% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes? Well, it’s not really made for the critics. The film’s opening day “A-” CinemaScore (a grade the previous films received as well) shows that this was made for the fans who have made the franchise a $400 million global hit. It’s by no means a perfect movie, but as a 90-minute entertainment diversion, it more than gets the job done.