Released: 1st January 2018 (Australia)
Seen: 15th January 2018
Directed by: Trish Sie
Written by: Kay Cannon, Mike White
Produced by: Gold Circle Films, Perfect World Pictures, Universal Pictures
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp & Hailee Steinfeld
Life is tough when you’re a Bella, or more specifically when you USED TO BE a bella. That’s what the main characters of Pitch Perfect 3 are dealing with when the story begins, the discovery that life outside sucks and sometimes you have to do jobs that you don’t like. Sometimes you have to deal with irritating rappers who don’t know anything about how music works, other times you gotta fist a cow, but the point is that the real world sucks so why not have a reunion where everyone get’s back together and performs at the USO show for the Troops because if there is anything that the troops love, it’s acapella covers of Sia songs sung by a collective of women in glittery army outfits. It’s a silly idea, to be honest. An idea that’s made sillier because that is just one of several plots that this film tries to go with and none of them works. Some are just boring, some are poorly done, only one of them is majestically bad to the point of being worth a damn. It’s the Fat Amy character’s plotline and it provides the only real gut laughs in this movie because it is so over the top. If the movie had stuck with “We have to get back together to perform for the USO show” there’s some potential in that idea, but when you throw in everything else this film tries to do it becomes muddled and like you’re only doing it to throw in jokes that worked in the first movie but not here. The two hosts turn up for no reason, they’re basically stalking the Bellas and it’s not funny.
What’s also not that good are the musical numbers, which is kind of sad considering this is a musical. The opening song (Which is later repeated) is amazing, no denying that. I liked that they opened with acapella versions of the film studio logos before going right into the opening song which was epic but after that, it’s bland and flavourless. There are none of the thrills of the original movie’s song choices. When the original belted out a pool mashup of Just The Way You Are with Just A Dream it was a beautiful moment that pulled everyone in. The Riff-Off in that movie was fun and exciting because anyone could win and the songs were wonderfully done. That finale in the original film is genuinely one of my favourite musical finale performances because everyone was so perfectly in sync and were belting out a great medley that worked… there’s none of that here.
They sing Cheap Thrills because that was popular at the time. They sing Cake By The Ocean because it was popular at the time, these songs feel like they’re in there for temporary name recognition and not because they are fun or entertaining to perform. No one even looks like they’re that invested, half of the performances may as well be done by people in comas because they don’t care. There’s a line in the film where someone from the band Evermoist points out that the Bellas just do covers, implying that Evermoist is better because they do originals. The original song (There is only one in this movie) sucks and has no ability to blow me away. In terms of the story, it needs to blow the audience away with how amazing it is so that when the Bellas do better than it, it becomes satisfying. It’s not, there is no satisfaction to be had here with the music because no one picked anything good to perform. This is season 6 of Glee levels of poor song choices, that’s how bad the song choices are.
The upside is that the actors are, for the most part, fine. All the old cast who returned are really good. There’s one pretty major character who is written out of the movie with a pregnancy plotline that feels kind of forced. Either they couldn’t get her back or they just didn’t know what to do with her. There’s at least two Bella’s who they have no idea what to do with them, to the point where it becomes a joke that they could be killed and no one would really care that much. They write Skyler Astin and Adam Devine out in one line, almost like they couldn’t get them to come back. They don’t even turn up, at least the pregnancy story lets that one character have a moment on screen. This feels like they just couldn’t get them to return, which is really sad.
For the most part, the old cast is fine, the new cast has a few notable people that are less than fine. There is Guy Burnet playing DJ Khaled’s producer Theo who is there because they could not get DJ Khaled on set for long enough to shoot what they needed… I assume, he has no character other than “I work for DJ Khaled”. There’s also Matt Lanter as Chicago, an army officer who is there because he is pretty… that’s it, he has no other character traits beyond “Pretty”. I’m not even kidding. There’s also the aforementioned DJ Khaled who looks so uncomfortable in this movie. Is this how he acts in reality? Because I don’t know the man but he made me think he was a really bad actor… and he’s playing himself so that’s quite a feat. Lastly, and undeniably best, there is John Lithgow. John Lithgow does an Australian accent that’s somewhere between Crocodile Dundee and a very stupid person’s idea of what an Aussie sounds like and I kind of love it. I mean, it’s nowhere near a real Aussie accent and it doesn’t even sound like it’s in the same ballpark as Rebel Wilson’s accent (And he’s playing her father, they share scenes together, you can so tell which one of them is putting on a silly voice) but it’s so wrong that I love it unconditionally because he committed to it. He is the highlight of this film, the plotline with him and Amy are the best bit’s of this movie because there are actual stakes with them. There’s something on the line, they have great comedic timing, they sell their jokes and made the few bits of their plot stand out.
Visually this film is… confusing, to say the least. It looks fine for the most part but then they show ‘documentary footage’ shot by those two annoying hosts and it’s in black and white which is not what that camera would shoot in. It looks really stupid and is pointless because after a while they forget about that gag and stop using it. The actual musical numbers are also a bit cluttered, there are several points where people are moving about and it’s easy to lose track of where they are. I expect better from the director of the fifth Step Up movie. I will admit that the opening scene (And the scene where it’s repeated near the end) are the best visual moments, they are where this film shines and it should’ve been that over the top action style throughout. Yeah, it’d be silly and nonsensical but at least it’d be entertaining. At least those insane action setpieces mean that something of value is being put on screen and had they done an action comedy musical with these characters? That would’ve been awesome, but that’s not the kind of movie we got.
This film is trying to coast by on the charisma of its actors but gives them nothing to work with. It lacks a decent story, tries to do too many subplots and doesn’t run with the one subplot that works. It’s so poorly constructed that they literally show the conclusion to several major plot threads during the end credits… that’s not a thing you should ever do. The film had potential to end the Pitch Perfect series with a triumphant bang but instead, it’s going out with a soft sigh and nothing memorable to show for its work.