By Kim Hughes
The knock-kneed buoyancy of the ensemble performances in musical-comedy Pitch Perfect 3 ensures the box office–friendly franchise about a bunch of preternaturally talented acapella singers goes out on a (ahem) relatively high note even if it feels as though the film’s overarching girl power message has been clubbed to death.
Yes, the plot is ridiculous, its high-camp villains about as dimensional as those found in Josie and the Pussycats TV episodes. But citing Pitch Perfect for being silly is like complaining that Hallmark cards are sentimental even if the movie wears its faults like an overstuffed piñata.
Pitch Perfect 3 is an exercise in preaching to the converted. All you really need to do is check your brain at the door and submit to its charms.
The plot, such as it is, opens as the immaculately accessorized former Barden Bellas pursue post-graduate careers, none especially successful or satisfying. A thwarted reunion performance confirms the Bellas hunger to sing together again, even if it’s a swansong. So, like, why not perform as part of a USO tour for American troops overseas? The tour triggers a subplot involving Daddy issues plaguing two of the Bellas, and leading to a climax preposterous by even C-level Hollywood standards. But still.
Once in Europe, the Bellas encounter hostile tour mates bent on elbowing the women aside in pursuit of winning a coveted opening spot on a tour with superstar DJ Khaled who plays himself with all the crackle of a music nerd who has spent his life thumbing through record bins in search of the mighty first pressing. Along the way, the Bellas — Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, and Hana Mae Lee et. al. — rediscover the true meaning of friendship. Pass the Daiquiris, please.
Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins again anchor a tertiary and weirdly disconnected subplot about Entertainment Tonight–styled acappella commentators (?!) who simultaneously loathe and admire their subjects as they stalk them from Spain to France, cameras in tow. It’s notable that Banks, who gamely directed Pitch Perfect 2, acquiesced to music video director Trish Sie for this installment though original writer Kay Cannon returns abetted by comedy veteran Mike White with negligible boost.
Wilson’s Fat Amy still gets all the best lines, and she deserves props for keeping a straight face while John Lithgow (playing her smarmy onscreen father) sputters lines in a sloppily pasted-on accent that puts the ‘alian’ in Australian. But the Bellas serve up a heck of an encore. Enough said.
Pitch Perfect 3. Directed by Trish Sie. Starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hana Mae Lee, Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins. Opens wide December 22.