The original Pitch Perfect was a sleeper hit, and Pitch Perfect 2 was a blockbuster comedy. From a business perspective, it makes sense that Universal would want a third installment. But Trish Sie’s Pitch Perfect 3 runs into a problem that should have been obvious from the flaws of Pitch Perfect 2—there aren’t that many places you can go with a college a capella group, especially after they’ve graduated from college. The result is a movie that limply checks off boxes for what it thinks the fans want while never really investing in even the basic beats of good storytelling or even good music. Rather than send the Barden Bellas out on a high note, Pitch Perfect 3 makes it feel like they’ve overstayed their welcome.
None of the Barden Bellas are doing particularly well in the post-college careers. When Aubrey (Anna Camp) presents the opportunity for the group to sing on a USO Tour, they all leap at the opportunity. When they arrive, they discover that they’re back in a competition of sorts with DJ Khalid (who, judging by the film, was apparently paid based on how many times people reverently say his name) picking one of the USO groups to serve as his opening act. Beca (Anna Kendrick) wrestles with possibly being the breakaway star of the Bellas while Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) has a tenuous reunion with her estranged father Fergus (John Lithgow).
Pitch Perfect 3 is by far the shortest of the Pitch Perfect films and yet it feels the longest. The script feels slapped together with a lot of rehashing from the previous movies that even Pitch Perfect 3 seems irritated with. The characters may as well say, “Oh, look. Another singing competition. How original,” or “Looks like it’s time for a Riff-Off”, elements that worked in the previous movies but here feel perfunctory and half-baked. Almost everyone here seems bored, going through the motions of better Pitch Perfect movies but with only half the enthusiasm.
The lone bright spot is Wilson, whose storyline may be completely untethered from the spirit of the Pitch Perfect movies (it involves a kidnapping plot and a rescue operation), but at least she’s having fun with it and her comedic timing is still spot on. It’s disappointing that Wilson hasn’t been entrusted yet to carry her own comedy (we won’t see her take the sole lead until 2019’s Isn’t It Romantic), but she shows in Pitch Perfect 3 that she’s as sharp as ever, always ready with a great line delivery or cutting one-liner.
Unfortunately, Wilson isn’t enough to save this disappointing sequel that will make you wish Universal had just left well enough alone. Pitch Perfect 2 was enjoyable enough, but comedy sequels are difficult and usually result in a case of diminishing returns. What could be a long-lived beloved classic is worn down by poor sequels that tarnish the original through association, and while the first Pitch Perfect remains strong, it’s a shame that the series’ will go out on such a down note.