Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hana Mae Lee, Alexis Knapp, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks. Directed by: Trish Sie.
There aren’t many comedy trilogies, and even fewer centred around women, where the chief creative force is women. Pitch Perfect 3 rounds off the trilogy in a big, loud, if not entirely satisfying manner.
What needs to be praised is that this is clearly a work for and by women. From producer-actress – part 2 director Elizabeth Banks who brought this project into being, to screenwriter Kay Cannon – the driving force of the series – to the almost entirely all-female cast, it skewers what a women-led comedy needs to be and for that, it’s a good thing.
The story, this time around, is that the Bellas all find themselves at a loss in their lives and careers, without the thrill of singing acapella. Getting into a competition that could lead to working with DJ Khaled, they go to entertain the troops at the USO show.
What worked best about the original film was that is was a John Hughes style college-set comedy with teeth. The male roles were sidelined, barely sketched out like most women roles in mainstream comedies, and the humour was unapologetically broad. It was Mean Gleeks or The Breakfast Club Tropicana. Much like Bridesmaids, it had a wit and a charm that was cutthroat and ruthless, from its gross-out vomit humour to its sly jokes about female sexuality and overreacting to minor situations. The sequel did the same thing but bigger, but this film opts to go wider than bigger.
Not only do we find the Bellas singing at USO shows, but we follow several disparate strands that don’t go anywhere. Bella (Anna Kendrick) struggles after being fired, but finds a possible romance and a flair for mixing beats with a British P.A. to DJ Khaled. Chloe (Brittany Snow) finds romance with a US marine, who attempts to escort them around the shows. But the biggest problem and the subplot with the least amount of reason is surrounding Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) whose criminal father (the always reliable John Lithgow) winds up holding the Bellas hostage on his yacht. Unlike the first film’s basic underdog story arc, this one fails to find anywhere to go with characters.
Trish Sie, director of Step Up: All In, knows how to edit a film and does very well with the comedy, and very very well with the completely out-of-the-blue action sequences, but the film shouldn’t have them. This was a simple, funny film about girls finding their inner feminist and singing some good songs along the way, but has somehow ended up as a strange globe-trotting action series.
The cast are all universally good; despite new players like Ruby Rose and Matt Lanter getting nothing to do, Lithgow makes his strange, unfortunate role work. But it’s down to the collective chemistry of the Bellas that the film really soars. They’re funny enough, and good enough singers that you wish they were in a simpler film, a film that was just about girls with attitude singing songs without instruments, but there isn’t enough in the disparate plotline to warrant the other parts of the film.
Anna Kendrick is engaging enough in a plot as thin as Table 19, and Hailee Steinfeld as deadpan as possible in The Edge of Seventeen, while Rebel Wilson can improv like a pro, but the lack of a strict narrative, means that their collective charm and goodwill is not enough. Even the series staples, the riff-off seems undercooked and not nearly as thrilling.
In the end, while some of the individual jokes land well, and Anna Kendrick is a deadpan delight, there is no element in the film that glues properly and offers anything other than a passing, vaguely confusing thrill. Aca-average.
Paul Klein is a Film Studies Graduate from London, former writer at The Metropolist.