By Charlie David Page
23rd December 2017

It’s time for one final encore for the Bellas: ‘Pitch Perfect 3’ reunites the ladies for one last outing. With a sequel that didn’t live up to the original, will their third collaboration bring back the magic and have you singing along in your cinema seat?

Our Bellas have moved on from college and find real life is a lot tougher - and less musically oriented - than they had hoped. As one final hurrah, they get the old gang back together for a USO tour, singing for the troops and travelling through Europe. Yet as they move towards their final performance together, how will they cope with moving on for good?

The third outing of ‘Pitch Perfect’ is distinct from its predecessors in one big way: it’s not entirely focused on the music. Here, we’re off on an adventure, travelling the world, with some attractive guys thrown in along the way for the girls to set their hearts on. In fact, it’s a better film when it’s not concerned with the singing. The film is at its best when it loses focus on the Bellas competing around three-quarters of the way through the film and just becomes wildly fun, seeing the group as best friends who stick together. It’s much more enjoyable to watch, and ensures it’s not retreading old ground.

The problem is, the first three-quarters of the film is just messy and unoriginal. We’ve all seen the riff-offs before - only this time, it’s with bands who use instruments, so it’s no real competition... and the script itself even comments on this fact. The musical choices follow the trend of ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ and favour modern songs over classics, which was always a big mistake - the blend of new and old from the original was the winning formula. The script itself also has the cringiest dialog of the series, and is missing the bulk of humour and heart that made the first film especially so endearing. Even Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson, ‘Bridesmaids’, ‘How To Be Single’) ain’t what she used to be, with some puns falling entirely flat.

Not even Anna Kendrick (‘Table 19’, ‘The Accountant’, ‘Up In The Air’) can save the bulk of this film; her usual radiance and effervescence is lacking, and while she’s still a joy to watch on screen, seems to just drift along with the story. Hailee Steinfeld (‘The Edge Of Seventeen’, ‘True Grit’) is actually borderline obnoxious, but that’s more to do with the writing of her character Emily. I was highly concerned about the presence of Ruby Rose (‘xXx: Return Of Xander Cage’, ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’, TV’s ‘Orange Is The New Black’) in this film, but fortunately she has very little to do besides sing, so the most I can say about her performance is it’s very... angular. However, John Lithgow is an abomination in this film. Without ruining too much of the surprise, his actual role is a huge amount of fun, but his accent is so unbearable that I wanted to claw at the screen every time he appeared.

The film is at its best when it loses focus on the Bellas competing around three-quarters of the way through the film and just becomes wildly fun.

I’ve never felt that the ‘Pitch Perfect’ series was filmed particularly well, coming off no better than an extended episode of ‘Glee’. The third time around, new director Trish Sie (‘Step Up: All In’) brings probably the most flair so far in the franchise, but it’s still nothing that will knock you off your feet. Series writer Kay Cannon (TV’s ‘30 Rock’, ‘New Girl’) joins forces this time around with Mike White (‘School Of Rock’) - and honestly, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. White has had a truly tumultuous 2017, with some gems (‘Beatriz At Dinner’) and some total stinkers (‘The Emoji Movie’, ‘Brad’s Status’), so it’s hard to say whether he’s responsible for the terrible beginning or stellar ending of this film. Possibly their best decision is keeping the story a nice, tight 93 minutes.

In the end, fans of the franchise will enjoy this outing - going off the hoards of teenage girls sitting next to me in my screening, it’s a squeal-worthy affair. As a piece of cinema, it’s a bit of a mess and doesn’t bring the laughs or lyrical prowess that it promises, and its saving grace is most definitely the last 20 minutes. This swan song from the Bellas didn’t blow me away - but it’s enough fun to keep you sufficiently entertained.

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