Look. Pitch Perfect 3 is not good. Not by any reasonable metric of filmmaking. There are no character arcs, there is no narrative arc—there is BARELY a narrative. Pitch Perfect was a nice little surprise, a college comedy wrapped up in a capella/girl band trimmings, and as a one-and-done, it’s great. But as a franchise, Pitch Perfect is the Transformers of singing movie franchises—there are no actual characters, it’s over-edited, and it’s total nonsense. BUT. It’s f*cking fun anyway. Pitch Perfect 3 could also be called Top Secret 2: Singing Boogaloo.
If you don’t remember the 1980s Val Kilmer spy-spoof classic Top Secret, 1) What is wrong with you, and 2) It’s a terrible movie but a GREAT spoof. Pitch Perfect 3 runs on the same engine—bad movie, GREAT spoof, except Pitch Perfect 3 is spoofing itself. PP3 will not bring new fans to the franchise—it will probably make a lot of people question why there are THREE of these—but if you like Pitch Perfect and you’re also okay laughing at Pitch Perfect, then you should like PP3 just fine.
There is no use describing the plot because there basically isn’t one, and in the first few scenes characters might as well be shouting “Contrivance!” at one another. In short, Becca (Anna Kendrick) and the Bellas are out of college and struggling to find their feet. They long for their days as queens of campus as Barden Bellas, so through a contrivance, Aubrey (Anna Camp) gets the Bellas a gig touring with the USO. There is also a competition aspect, as a battle of the bands is taking place in which the winner gets to open for DJ Khaled, and a Fat Amy subplot which involves John Lithgow doing a hilariously bad Australian accent. And DJ Kahled actually shows up to do an impression of himself that is completely nonsensical, as befitting this “plot”.
But it is an excuse for the Bellas to perform elaborate a capella numbers, which are great, and the riff-off scene is superb. Director Trish Sie (a veteran of the Step Up franchise), and editors Craig Alpert and Colin Patton, put together terrific musical sequences, especially that riff-off. If you’re just in it for the music, PP3 delivers. Every music sequence is at least three times as elaborate as the Bellas finals from the original movie.
It’s also pretty funny, with more jokes that work than don’t. Everyone gets in at least one good zinger, and since the story is so f*cking dumb it has to be intentional, there is a gleefully stupid vibe that everyone commits to. Even Kendrick, who can sometimes project a latent too-cool-for-school vibe, is committed to the dumbness, and the result is a breezy ninety minutes of jokes intercut with elaborate song and dance numbers, all fueled by a sincere girl-power vibe. I’m not going to defend Pitch Perfect 3 as any kind of a good movie, but in a year made of garbage fires and intermittent radioactive sh*t storms, there’s something kind of nice about a dumb movie with a bunch of women supporting the sh*t out of each other while singing a capella versions of catchy tunes.