FILM REVIEW – PITCH PERFECT 3. With Anna Kendrick, Hailee Steinfeld, John Lithgow, Rebel Wilson, Ruby Rose. Written by Kay Cannon. Directed by Trish Sie. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language and some action. 93 minutes.
As with the new “Star Wars,” it probably helps if you’ve seen the previous movies before catching PITCH PERFECT 3. In this case, it’s less for the plot points than knowing the backstories of the characters.
The storyline is about an all-female acapella group called The Bellas and inevitably comes down to them having to win a big competition. Surprisingly, it has also turned out to be an excuse for movies combining musical numbers with off-the-wall comedy.
In this entry, The Bellas are struggling in the real world after graduation (except for Hailee Steinfeld’s Emily, who is still in school) when an opportunity comes along for a reunion. They’ve been invited to go on a USO tour in Europe where they will compete with other acts to be selected as the opening number for the final show starring DJ Khaled (playing himself). Among the competitors is a girl rock group called Extra Moist headed by Calamity (Ruby Rose). They’re intended to be the “bad girl” rivals to The Bellas, but that storyline really doesn’t go anywhere.
Instead, our focus is on the various Bellas, particularly Beca (Anna Kendrick) who has to decide what to do about her floundering career as a music producer, and Amy (Rebel Wilson) who is reunited with her father (John Lithgow with an improbable Australian accent), a former arms dealer and criminal. Other characters get their moments – keep your eyes on Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) – but we’re never really concerned about the story except, perhaps, for an explosive prologue that will not be explained until late in the film.
Although Elizabeth Banks is not directing this time, she and John Michael Higgins return as the catty commentators who are now producing a documentary about The Bellas. Their by-play with each other, and reacting to others, provides some of the zaniest moments in the film, including a final payoff to their relationship over the three films.
As this is billed as the final film in the series, each of the characters is granted closure, although some have to wait for the closing credits. If some of the details make no sense or seem wildly unlikely, don’t worry. This is a movie that wants you to laugh and enjoy the music, not engage in analysis. When the group shows up to a party in which Khaled is said to travel with his own portable beehive in a glass case, you’re simply counting the minutes until a character’s comment that it’s “an accident waiting to happen” comes to fruition. It’s that sort of movie.
The name you’ll want to remember from “Pitch Perfect 3” is someone who doesn’t appear on-screen. Screenwriter Kay Cannon, who wrote all three films and has a number of television credits, makes her directing debut next year with “Blockers.” If she can bring the same comic sensibility to a project written by others, we could be seeing the launch of a major comedy film career.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.