For a film series that began with a classic message about finding oneself in college and learning to make the most of your talents, it’s disconcerting to say the least that the final film in the trilogy begins not just with the obligatory song and dance, but also with an exploding yacht. It seems unlikely that there are many “Pitch Perfect” fans that wanted to see their favorite fictional a cappella group in the plot of a bad James Bond movie, and audience members that weren’t on board with the franchise thus far will hardly be convinced by the new direction. “Pitch Perfect 3,” directed by Trish Sie (“Step Up: All In”) and featuring returning stars Anna Kendrick (“Trolls”), Rebel Wilson (“Bridesmaids”) and Hailee Steinfeld (“The Edge of Seventeen”), spends its two-hour runtime destroying any sense of goodwill the audience may have had for these characters and solidifies the series' fate as a forgotten relic that remains at the bottom of the five dollar Walmart bin.
From the opening sequence that seemingly trades in musical hijinks for low-budget spy parody, the film rapidly descends into a mockery of itself. The plot (so much as there is one) revolves around the Barton Bellas’s trip across Europe while performing at United States army bases in an attempt to convince DJ Khaled to make them the opening act of his next show. If that premise sounds silly on paper, it’s even more preposterous on screen, with Khaled strolling through the picture for a number of cameos that feel not only tacked on, but also like they were filmed in the span of a day or two. While the audience is continually reminded by the script every few minutes that almost all of the Bellas have romantic interests in someone in another band, the film stumbles and trips through these storylines in a fashion reminiscent of a poor game of darts. There’s a lot being thrown at the wall here, but almost none of it sticks.
For what it’s worth, Kendrick is still the highlight of these movies, and her arc, although incredibly similar to her storyline from “Pitch Perfect 2,” is in fact the only part of the movie with any kind of emotional resonance whatsoever. Even the most coldhearted of individuals will find it hard not to smile when the gang at last gets their big reunion song on stage at the end. It doesn’t strike nearly as strong a chord as it might have if the movie was actually a good or even decent meditation on leaving your college friends and safe life on campus behind yet still trying desperately to keep in touch with that part of yourself, but “Pitch Perfect 3” simply isn’t up to that challenge.
Even the once-exciting a cappella numbers feel forced here, serving only to remind the audience of better scenes in better films. The film overall suffers from the feeling that it was totally and completely unnecessary. There isn’t really much of a story left to tell for the Bellas, and it shows here, with the movie falling quickly into the kind of hollow narrative structure that reeks of late ’90s sequels. An early rendition of the riff-off competition (one of the highlights of the first two films) feels completely lifeless and perfunctory here. It’s easy to see that scene as a metaphor for the film as a whole. The Bellas fall totally flat against the competition. Like the “Pitch Perfect” film franchise, all of their best days are behind them.