“PITCH PERFECT 3” — 2 stars — Anna Kendrick, Hailee Steinfeld, Rebel Wilson, Ruby Rose, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp; PG-13 (crude and sexual content, language and some action); in general release
If you think of “Pitch Perfect 3” as a 90-minute farewell concert, it makes a lot more sense. That’s the best way to explain a film that is jam-packed with musical numbers but only mildly interested in resolving its myriad plot threads. The result might be a fond sendoff for fans of the series, but director Trish Sie’s film is unlikely to win any new audiences.
After two films worth of adventures, the now-graduated members of the Barden Bellas — a female collegiate a cappella group — are struggling to make the transition into adulthood. Beca (Anna Kendrick) is working as a music producer, and straining to keep inferior clients like rapper Pimp-Lo (Moises Arias) happy. Chloe (Brittany Snow) is still trying to get into veterinary school, and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) is literally out on the streets doing a one-woman show as Fat Amy Winehouse.
Hope arrives when fellow ex-Bella Aubrey (Anna Camp) suggest the group sign on for a USO tour, so, eager for one last shot at musical glory, the crew flies to Spain. Here the Bellas find they are competing with a trio of traditional bands to be the opening act for DJ Khaled (playing himself). But after one of their traditional “riff-offs,” the ladies find themselves outclassed by the more seasoned acts.
While the Bellas try to navigate their new challenge, the plot thickens when Fat Amy discovers her long-lost father Fergus (John Lithgow), a criminal mastermind whose sudden interest in his daughter may not be quite so paternal. There are also at least three budding romances among the members of the group, but the real drama kicks in once DJ Khaled decides to offer Beca a chance to break off onto her own solo career, away from her longtime associates.
Finally, the Bellas are also being tailed by Gail and John (Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins), the snarky commentators from the Bellas’ previous performances, who have decided to make a documentary about the group’s demise.
None of the individual threads are given much attention — some of their resolutions are literally tossed in after the final credits begin to roll — and it quickly becomes apparent that the story is merely intended to provide a loose connection to the film’s numerous musical numbers.
To be fair, the musical numbers are probably what fans are looking for anyway, and they should be plenty happy with the parade of a cappella interludes that, while always framed as spontaneous, are highly choreographed, coordinated and presented with expert sound production. It would be a stretch to call “Pitch Perfect 3” a glorified music video, but the third installment in the series feels like it comes with about 50 percent more music for your ticket price.
At the same time, director Trish Sie’s film continually sends the message that the Bellas just need to move on, and at times “Pitch Perfect 3” almost feels like it’s apologizing for its own existence. Outside of the music, there’s still plenty of PG-13 level humor — mostly from the self-deprecating Wilson — but gratefully, the painful a cappella puns have been almost completely removed from the script.
Altogether, “Pitch Perfect 3” feels like just what you’d expect from a cinematic effort to get the band together one last time: it’s good for nostalgia and a sense of closure, but it isn’t much of a movie.
“Pitch Perfect 3” is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language and some action running time: 93 minutes.