The Pitch Perfect universe is back and littered with the same terrible a cappella puns, only this time without a quality storyline to redeem itself.
The threequel follows the Barden University Bellas three years after the last installment, as they navigate disappointing post-graduate lives before embarking on "one last hurrah" via a USO tour through Europe, performing for troops while competing with three other musical acts for a spot opening for DJ Khaled.
More than a few parts of the film felt extremely similar to its predecessor, Pitch Perfect 2, chiefly the opening scene, in which the Bellas are performing while Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) makes a grand, show-stopping entrance.
Noticeably absent were Jesse (Skylar Astin), Bumper (Adam Devine) and Benji (Ben Platt), the three male leads and love interests from the previous installments.
Devine and Platt were two of the biggest comic actors in the first two films. Without them, the script relied heavily on Wilson for comedic relief — of which there is plenty — but ultimately fell short because she didn't have anyone to play off. (Note to writers: It's OK to let more than one woman be funny.)
The lack of romance, save for Chloe (Brittany Snow) falling for Army officer Chicago (Matt Lanter, Timeless, 90210), should have allowed female friendship to reign supreme, but fell short between all the ideas it tried to execute in 93 minutes. In fact, the movie as a whole felt like a smorgasboard of ideas that never made it into the first two movies. It's tough to recap the storyline because side ventures and singular character plots are abundant without ever lining up cohesively.
The "final hurrah" trope is an interesting choice, given it was also how they marketed Pitch Perfect 2. Even the idea of raising the plot to new heights by taking the characters overseas is a tired one — that, too, was a main portion of the sequel.
This time, all the original Bellas are living disappointing post-grad lives — not just Aubrey (Anna Camp, who is married to Astin in real life), who already felt like her best years were behind her the last time we saw her. It doesn't help when the girls reunite with Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), who is now a senior and makes the rest of the former Bellas yearn for a time when they were doing something they loved. And if there's anyone to make you feel like a washed-up failure, it's Steinfeld, whose approachable-cool-girl vibes make me wish I was as young and full of potential as her even though she's six months older than me.
To be fair, there was a surprise twist toward the end unlike anything we've seen in the Pitch Perfect universe, but it went so far in the opposite direction that it felt unnecessarily shocking and out of place.
The music, as always, was redeeming. Between the Bellas' covers and performances by other touring groups— including a band led by Ruby Rose's (Orange is the New Black) cool rocker chick named Calamity, Pitch Perfect 3 shined brightest here.
But then there's Beca's (Anna Kendrick) relationship with DJ Khaled's charming British music producer, Theo (Guy Burnet), which is cringe-y at best and completely problematic at worst.
Kendrick has said in interviews that she talked the movie's higher-ups out of giving the two characters a romantic storyline, but Theo still spend the entire movie all but undressing Beca with his eyes while simultaneously encouraging and supporting her music career.
Maybe it was an intentional commentary on power dynamics in the entertainment industry, but mostly it was uncomfortable and disappointing to watch a character succeed while underlying tones suggested it was because the man supporting her did so out of attraction rather than in genuine support of her talent.
Production on the film ended in April — months before sexual assault allegations began flooding Hollywood — but it shouldn't take an industry-wide upheaval to realize what a terrible power dynamic this storyline sets up, especially with a female director (Trish Sie) and co-screenwriter (Kay Cannon) at the helm.
Pitch Perfect 3 was overly ambitious while vastly under-delivering. Keeping in the realm of the other two movies, there were plenty of quality tunes and a handful of laugh-out-loud moments. Just don't expect this one to hold a candle to its predecessors.