10:30 am EST, December 27, 2017

‘Pitch Perfect 3’ movie review: The tired franchise takes a new path

Pitch Perfect 3 maintains the quality of its predecessors’ musical numbers, but veers into a story that is untrue to its origins.

A few years after their graduation, the Barden Bellas find themselves unsatisfied with their careers, or lack of careers. After a misunderstanding causing the Bellas to believe that they will have a reunion performance, the group decides to perform together one last time to lift their spirits. This leads the group on a worldwide USO tour.

Pitch Perfect 3 manages to avoid the pitfalls of many sequels by taking the story in a completely new direction. Unfortunately, this story does not fit the world created by the previous Pitch Perfect films, and loses what makes the first Pitch Perfect special.

While Pitch Perfect 2 was definitely a disappointment compared to the first in the trilogy, it was a logical sequel. It continued the story and developed the characters in a way consistent with the first film. The movie faltered, however, mostly because the material was no longer fresh.

Pitch Perfect 3 is neither fresh nor consistent with the previous entries in the series. It changes tonally from being a quirky musical comedy to an action comedy with music. It is commendable that they took such a creative step in revamping the series, instead of completely rehashing the plot of the previous movies.

Unfortunately, Pitch Perfect 3 does not work as an action movie. While it gives Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy more dimension, allowing her a new way to play, it takes away from the stronger group dynamics. Fat Amy becomes an action hero, which is enjoyable to watch and provides one of the strongest scenes in the film, but the existence of this plot is a detriment to the film as a whole.

Pitch Perfect was focused on Beca (Anna Kendrick), but was centralized in the Barden Bellas, giving a bit of time to explore the other characters. This allowed the film a strong viewpoint and entry into the world, concentrating on the least over-the-top character. Pitch Perfect 2 diluted the story too much across multiple characters, yet the story always felt faithful to the Barden Bellas as a whole.

Pitch Perfect 3 not only spends way too much time on too many characters, it also prioritizes the individual over the group. It focuses primarily on Beca, Fat Amy, and Chloe (Brittany Snow), and secondarily on Aubrey (Anna Camp), with only a little about Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) and rarely spending time on the Barden Bellas as a group.

Fat Amy’s storyline has already been addressed, but the others feel run-of-the-mill. The time is poorly divided between these characters, never really allowing any of them to have any growth. While it is nice to see Chloe more in the spotlight, the characters fared better more on the sidelines.

While the film does have a central action plot, the story is not strong overall. The movie is lifted by the musical numbers, but otherwise meanders until its exciting ending. Pitch Perfect 3 does not really feel like it is leading to anything, and a competition storyline feels forced in to add a modicum of momentum.

However, despite the lack of plot, the movie moves at a strong pace, energized by the musical numbers. Unfortunately, the scenes in between are never that comedic, as the material feels recycled from the previous movies. It is never creative in its humor, and at its best, it is merely amusing to see these characters interact again.

Pitch Perfect was at its strongest when it was grounded, and Pitch Perfect 3 is anything but. It tries to be as big as it can be, sacrificing the story and characters. Pitch Perfect 3 is saved by its musical numbers and its talented cast to keep the series alive for a final entry.

Grade: C+

‘Pitch Perfect 3’ opened in theaters December 22, 2017

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