Film Review: Pitch Perfect 3 (USA, 2017) is a little off key but still delivers the laughs

Welcome back Pitches! So the third and final installment of the Pitch Perfect franchise is about to land with all the Barden Bellas crew returning for one more hurrah. When the first film hit cinemas in 2012 it tapped into a hot new trend of reality tv-shows and Youtube performers and Glee-style musical numbers of choreographed singing and dancing; pumped full of great medleys and memorable songs. The second film followed in its footsteps and upped the stakes with the Bellas facing off against a German supergroup. The third film though tries to shake the pre-existing formula up a bit and in doing so doesn’t quite nail all the necessary notes.

The Bellas have moved on from their acapella singing days, attempting to lead “normal” lives with “normal” dayjobs. The irony being that the glitz and glamour of being superstar singers in their college years has resulted in them ending up with horrendously average and unfulfilling lives. In a desperate bid for one last chance at fun times and reinvigorating the sisterhood, Aubrey (Anna Camp) gets them on the USO tour of Europe performing for troops and also competing for an opportunity to open for DJ Khaled (as himself). Only hitch is they’re now vying against other performers with *real* instruments, uh oh. Will the Bellas be able to come together one last time to win?

Familiar faces return, with Beca (Anna Kendrick), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Aubrey (Camp) Lily (Hana Mae Lee) and Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) making up the core Bellas. All of whom get their own share of screen time, though the key scenes interestingly revolve around Beca and Fat Amy this time around. Where the film falters is in its overloaded bloated script. We have Beca, the one who has had her heart set on a career in the music industry and after quitting her depressing job feels adrift. So when the opportunity arises for her, and her alone, to work with DJ Khaled she once again finds herself torn between her family in the Bellas and getting to work as an artist. Then we get Aubrey and her daddy issues, and a bizarre side story involving Fat Amy and her father, both of which don’t seem to be in any way related to the rest of the what’s going on. It’s all a little too all over the place, so when it finally reaches its eventual heartwarming conclusion it’s a relief rather than a joy.

Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy is not so surprisingly the comedic stand-out in this, where she’s given the opportunity to drop as many ridiculous jokes as she can whilst onscreen. Be it verbal or physical comedy she pretty much nails all the laughs. Though the insertion of John Lithgow as her estranged drug-dealing corrupt shady father with a terrible attempt at an Australian accent falls so flat it sinks into the ocean. For once Brittany Snow gets to really stretch her awkward legs when Chloe develops a crush on Chicago (Matt Lanter) one of the soldiers tasked with chaperoning the Bellas. There are a few too many relatable moments as she tries repeatedly to flirt with him only to result in some embarassing faux pas.

Where these films have always excelled though is in their performances, and this time around there are some great song choices thrown into the soundtrack. With a mix of contemporary classics like Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and a timely cover of George Michael’s “Freedom 90” mix, as well as current hits like “Cake By The Ocean” and “Exs and Ohs”. And as always there’s the return of the riff off that pits the Bellas against the other performers on the USO lineup – including an appearance by Aussie Ruby Rose as the frontwoman for Evermoist (unfortunately named but here we are).

Pitch Perfect 3 attempts to change the arrangement but in doing so loses that X-factor for what made the other two films work so well. It has enough properly laugh out loud funny moments that manages to redeem it and ends with a typical Hollywood saccharine moment but it still feels warm and fuzzy because we’ve followed the journey of these awesome nerds.

Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 93 minutes

Pitch Perfect 3 is screening in Australian cinemas from 1 January 2018 through Universal Pictures.