Pitch Perfect 3 (***1/2) is a well deserved victory tour

last-call-pitches-pitch-perfect-3

Pitch Perfect 3 – 2017

Director Trish Sie
Screenplay by Kay Cannon, Mark White
Starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hana Mae Lee, Alexis Knapp, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks, Ester Dean, John Lithgow

If you don’t know what to expect from the Barden Bellas by this point, you might as well just skip this review. You get what you’ve seen before, just with more self-referential humor and a delightful twist with one of the characters I had the least use for up to now. The same thing is happening at the start of this film. The girls are in disarray in their personal lives. They have lost their sense of purpose. Someone gets the great idea to get the team together for one last really last ride this time. Someone is having a contest along the way. Will the Bellas win?  Will wackiness ensue?

The big things missing this time round is the Treblemakers, in particular Jesse, Benji and Bumper. With their loss, we are absent some incidental romantic interludes, but more importantly, there is less a Capella. They fill the place with nods to other influences rap, country and soft rock. These other sounds, really, most people did not go to the movie to see. The sections they occupy outside of the Riff Off are just a hole in the film that is not adequately filled with wacky hi jinks. But hey, they had to have a reason to have DJ Kahled.

Whether you need to have Kahled in a movie or not is likely a decision made at a production level. He’s engaging enough of a personality, and gracious enough to allow a translator in the story to play off the fact that his linguistic skill is on par with Snoop Dogg.

The best thing about the PP series is that even though there is a pretty extensive cast of characters that have made it from film to film, each of them gets a chance to push forward on the spots we are used to them occupying. None of this is derogatory treading over the same ground on their personal journeys through the films. Rather, we get to see tweaks to what we know of them, wending like a meandering path of humor. This works, even for those who are not going on tour with them. If there is a benefit to having had the same writer for all three films, it shows here. Cannon allows us to see the way women can bond in a comfortable, accepting way.

Less interesting is Kendrick and, for part of the time, Wilson. We get to see the former struggle with her career in music yet again, as it never seems to gain ground when we’re not observing her. So we see others see talent in her, and surprise, she’s on her way yet again by end of roll. She does have great interplay with the more impromptu moments, and it’s clear her character is whip smart with a heart of gold. Just wish she wasn’t treading the same ground.

For a while I was worried about Rebel Wilson. Most of the bad parts to the second film seemed to rely on her riffing ability, which isn’t as good as her reputation. This time is much the same, up to a point where the script digs into a different part of her life. The story line, involving her “father” John Lithgow, is ludicrous, but it’s made entertaining in the end, when they really push her character in the physical acting department. It’s doubtful that she did most or even some of those moves. She does, however, make it as fun as anything else she’s done in the series.

In the end, it comes down to the music, and this film has some really good Bella moments in that respect. We have more of them almost than in the first two films combined. They even put another Sia song in there. Yay for that, indeed.

If they have room to make 3 Hangover films or, worse, two Neighbors films, there is absolutely no reason they can make a trilogy of films of women who are friends through every single thing, even if we don’t really know Jessica and Ashley.

(***1/2 out of *****)

 

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