As the end of the year arrives and we’re hit with the usual string of Oscar-bait films, it’s nice to get a reminder that not all films need to ponder the meaning of life to be good. Sometimes, just being an hour and a half of ridiculous fun is enough. That’s exactly what Pitch Perfect 3 is. Directed by Trish Sie, this final installment in the Pitch Perfect franchise follows the Bellas as they get together for one last ride as they join an overseas USO tour, perform for troops, and get into wacky hijinks. While not a perfect film, I find the best way to appreciate this movie is to watch it for what it is. And what it is it does very well.
So what is Pitch Perfect 3? Well, for starters, it’s a musical comedy, two elements that the film does consistently well. It’s a very funny movie, helped by a clever script, good direction, and an on point cast that, by this third installment, all know their characters very well. While Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, and Anna Camp get the most to do (and totally nail it) as per usual, the film does a good job of spreading the wealth, giving all of the Bellas more focus than ever before. Hell, even the oft neglected Jessica and Ashley get some funny moments. This franchise also gets a lot of comedy mileage out of pitting the Bellas against people out of their league. This time it’s against Evermoist (lead by Ruby Rose) and Saddle Up, two bands who use actual instruments. And as mentioned before, the musical numbers continue to impress, both the acapella numbers and instrumental ones. This is helped by some stand-out singing all around, particularly from Kendrick. Some musical highlights include an acapella cover of “Toxic” by Britney Spears, “How a Heart Unbreaks” performed in the movie by rival band Evermoist, the finale number “Freedom ’90”, and the always fun Riff Off.
In terms of the franchise as a whole, while Pitch Perfect 3 still doesn’t manage to surpass the more grounded original, it is far better than the less superior second installment. And, when I say it’s less grounded than the first one I mean it. While the franchise had kept a largely consistent sense of humor and tone, as does each of the films, there has been a progression of absurdity throughout the series. While the first one is more grounded, this one is straight up ridiculous, with some parts that most of the time would get get you asking what the hell it’s doing in a musical comedy. But somehow, through this slightly absurdist tone, it not only works, it’s lots of fun. But not every problem with this movie can be fixed this way, most notably the absence of the guys, Jesse (Sklyar Astin), Benji (Ben Platt) and Bumper (Adam Devine). While it does provide an opportunity to focus more on the girls, the guys that are in this movie don’t exactly fill their shoes. Plus, after following them and their relationships with the Bellas for two films, it was sad to see them gone.
Even the silliest comedy can’t work without a little heart, something the Pitch Perfect movies have understood from the beginning. Even in the film’s silliest moments, the heart of the movie is still the Bellas’ friendship and sisterhood. This helps ground it, as well as give us something and someone to root for and care about. In this vain, as this is presumably the final movie in the franchise, Pitch Perfect 3 serves as a satisfying conclusion to the series, leaving all of the Bellas to cherish their bond while moving on to a new chapter in their lives.
As I was walking out of the movie, I was reminded of a quote from the Broadway musical The Drowsy Chaperone that I feel helps to sum up my feeling on the movie. It says, “I know it’s not a perfect show (…) But none of that matters. It does what a musical supposed to do. It takes you to another world. It gives you a little tune to carry with you and your head, you know? A little something to help you escape from the dreary horrors of the real world. A little something for when you’re feeling blue.” Pitch Perfect 3 is not a perfect movie. Yes, it has problems and is at times ridiculous and has a scene where they jump off an exploding boat. But that doesn’t matter because it’s a super fun, funny musical joyride with characters you’ve come to care about over the course of three movies. It helps you escape for an hour and a half in a time when the real world itself is pretty horrifying. And that, I think, is something to value.
4 out of 5 stars