Female Filmmakers · Film · Review

Pitch Perfect 3 Review – Trip on the victory lap

This might properly hit harder for me if I had seen the other two movies. I don’t even know if acapella was even in in 2011. It must have been probably, these movies made bank. They’re also films about sisterhood for a market that’s often wildly underserved by Hollywood so I don’t think it really matters. I read the Wikipedia pages of the first two in order to catch up.

I should have known that it would be insufficient. Pitch Perfect 3 is a victory lap of a movie that often doesn’t make sense if you’re unfamiliar with the characters, and I think there’s parts that won’t make sense if you do. John Lithgow’s Bond villain of a character comes outta nowhere and hijacks the movie for about twenty minutes at one point. I’m not sure what the takeaway from that is supposed to be, but it’s at complete odds with everything else here.

Aside from that strange diversion the main thrust of the plot is that it has been three years since award winning college acapella group, the Bellas, graduated and last sang together. The main cast are almost all very obviously in their thirties at this point, but just roll with it. Starting to feel the weight of adult life they decide to get together for one last reunion.

Conveniently, one of their number has a high ranking military official for a father who can pull some strings and our heroes are invited on a tour of Europe to play the USO show. From then on things get wild. The film is juggling the dozen members of the supergroup, all their respective romantic interests, and the sudden appearance of DJ Khaled who announces that one of the acts will becomes his opener.

Course that means we gotta dedicate the time to these other acts, a Mumford & Sons sounding folk set, and the Ruby Rose fronted lesbian-punk band Evermoist. Oh, and Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins’ characters return, now having moved on from their role as commentators they’re producing an unauthorised documentary of the group. Plus, we gotta get in the requisite amount of musical numbers that these films require.

Hot costuming

What I’m saying is that the film is juggling a lot of balls. It barely has time to dedicate to anything, and that’s before a twenty minute diversion into spy shit. And by that I mean Melissa McCarthy Spy shit, because that whole subplot is entirely resting on Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy. I suppose that comes as something of a relief because she is the only one of the leads who seems properly enthusiastic to be in the film.

I dunno if the others had more important projects they were moving on to, or even if they felt like they had been ignored by the screenplay. But the hesitation is palpable. This may have been slightly emphasised by director Trish Sie’s inability to fit the massive ensemble into shots and spaces comfortably. It feels like the edit and camera locations have been skewed to exclude everyone except the leads, and judging by the gag reel at the end we lost entire sequences from here at some point.

We can also throw some blame out to the writers of the previous editions for minimising the roles of all the people of colour. An Asian-American who don’t talk, what a novel joke. Anyway, the way that the characters played by Hana Mae Lee, Esther Dean and Chrissie Fit are sidelined feels totally bogus in 2018. Especially when the things it chooses to focus on are so scattershot and poorly developed.

Best part of the film right here

It’s too unfocussed in like a general sense, but then hyper-focussed on things which are useless, or bad. All the kidnapping subplot, and the DJ Khaled stuff gets way too complicated in whatever machinations the script needs to go through to have them survive. So even Anna Kendrick, the supposed lead gets nothing to do except sing when it’s her turn.

Even the one thing that it should nail, the big final performance, the rousing send of that the trilogy deserves, is so confused by these whims of the story that it loses all its weight in a sea of questions. I wasn’t even sure if the group was breaking up or staying together, that’s like the one thing that needed a clear answer. And then a major character’s arc is resolved in a box-out during the credits.

What? Why all these absurd decisions? The last two were set when the characters were at college, I guess there’s a framework to that. When you wanna take a film and use it as a victory lap, you don’t need a strong plot or traditional narrative framework because the characters should be able to support it themselves. You just gotta work real hard to avoid going off the rails. Seems Pitch Perfect 3 just ran away with itself.

Pitch Perfect 3 is currently screening in UK cinemas.

I'm sorry
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures

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