Pitch Perfect 3 (2017) (Review)

There's nothing quite as upsetting as watching a once-promising franchise grind so ungraciously to a disappointing halt. Pitch Perfect 3 waves the acapella series out on a bum note, absent of the charm and delight of its predecessor as well as, quite frankly, the laughs. Does the threequel manage to save any face at all, or is the goodbye tour a welcomed farewell?

Now graduated from college and working in the real-world, the Bellas reunite for one final performance for an overseas United Service Organisations tour, where they compete for an elusive performance slot on DJ Khaled's tour to prolong their farewell lap. Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfield, Hana Mae Lee, Ester Dean, Chrissie Fit, Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins return to the cast, Kay Cannon and Mike White are back on board as writers and Trish Sie is introduced to the franchise as director.

There was always something quite charming about the first two entries into the Pitch Perfect franchise; it was so easy to root for. Whether it was hearing your favourite songs given an acapella make-over, the energy placed in by the cast and crew of women across the board; or the plethora of belly-laughs served alongside a generally uplifting story of female empowerment and friendship. It was an absolute guilty pleasure of mine. Watching all that slowly dilute in what should have been the series' lap of honour though, is truly disheartening.

Cannon and White's screenplay replaces well-meaning laughs with mean-spirited humour that constantly undermines our leads and tirelessly turns them into laughing stocks; they become the butt of every joke and it begins to grate. While we have a few giggles sprinkled throughout, the gags become repetitive and I found myself trying to laugh. That's not how comedy works, and certainly not how this franchise has operated in the past. The feel good factor is absent and it becomes a bit cruel and difficult to forgive considering the characters are so likeable.

Pitch Perfect 3's biggest problem though is that it tries to be and do too much. Fundamentally, it is a franchise-closer - but rather than focus wholly on sending out the series on a high - a satisfying note -  it instead introduces needless plot strands to complicate and distract matters, very often at the detriment of the laughs and the characters. It's in the business for full-on fan service but nothing really sticks the landing and without the gags to prop it up, it ultimately disappoints. If I were to rank every joke made across the three films, I could probably count on one hand the gags from this film making the top 100. The narrative is a complete rehash and the various new plot strands are pointless; too many ingredients spoil this broth.

Clocking in at just 93 minutes, Pitch Perfect 3's runtime is a notable decrease from the previous two instalments. Sie powers through the material rather hastily and while it is a tight piece visually, with the camera and direction disguising the limitations of the budget, the same cannot be said for the unstable structure. These unnecessary storylines cause a tonal clash and prevent the franchise from wrapping up effectively and sending itself out on a satisfying note. It's cluttered but none of the narrative arcs are substantial enough on their own; while this is mainly down to the script, the direction and editing suggest that there is a fair bit left on the cutting room floor.

A reliable cast just about save the day - but by the very skin of their teeth. A couple of them seem to be a bit bored, actually, and you can understand why. Anna Kendrick undergoes the same character development arc as the second film offered her almost beat for beat, and while Kendrick will always be enjoyable to watch, you cannot help but think she (in particular) has outgrown the franchise. Rebel Wilson is, yet again, on fire, even as she battles a particularly convoluted story strand that strains to set up a spin-off. I found Brittany Snow rather charming (again, despite a storyline that frequently tests your patience) and Anna Camp is a welcome return after just a brief appearance in PP2. Hailee Steinfeld impresses once more and Elizabeth Banks revels as the Bella's commentator alongside a game John Michael Higgins.

One area Pitch Perfect 3 really makes an improvement though is in its selection of music; after a disappointing crop in the second instalment, PP3 makes up for it with Britney Spears' Toxic, Sia's Cheap Thrills, DNCE's Cake By The Ocean and George Michael's Freedom! 90, to name just a few. The acapella renditions are frequent highlights and whenever the film heads off on a tangent - when it tries to be an action film, or when it complicates itself with ridiculous side-stories - you long for the musical numbers to fill you with excitement and enjoyment. The riff-off, while forced, is well-orchestrated and entertaining enough while the finale, despite lacking the visual spectacle of their bigger numbers, is a nice note to end on.

Pitch Perfect was hardly the greatest franchise to grace our cinema screens but its originality, positivity and well-meaning nature earned a supporter out of me. It combined music and laughs together in such an entertaining, light-hearted and frequently humorous way. It's almost a relief that I enjoyed the first two outings as much as I did - they're my definition of a guilty pleasure - as I would have found this third and final venture an utter slog otherwise. Thankfully, the band of entertaining, lovable characters and talented actresses bringing them to life save face - but even that magic is beginning to wear away. While no disaster, this final bum note soils the franchise.


Summary: Pitch Perfect 3 ends a once-enjoyable franchise on a disappointing note. Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and co do their best to save the day and their musical numbers are enjoyable, but a notable lack of belly-laughs and distracting side-stories mean this franchise ungracefully splutters out.