Fame is fleeting. After beating a cappella automatons Das Sound Machine to the World Championship in 2015’s Pitch Perfect 2, our beloved Barden Bellas have now graduated college and are working jobs that are nothing to sing about. The exception is leader Beca (Anna Kendrick), whose producing career looks set to take off… until she gets fired.
Lucky for us, though: with sod-all else to do, the Bellas reform at a Barden reunion and embark on a USO tour to Spain, Italy and France, which means travelogue montages, soft-eyed, hard-bodied men, and thorny rivalries with the other groups on tour – most notably grrrl rockers Ever Moist (“My grandma’s in a band right now… Never Moist,” snipes Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy).
Also along for the ride, fronting a documentary designed to chronicle every high and low (mostly low), are commentators Gail Abernathy-McKadden (Elizabeth Banks) and John Smith (John Michael Higgins). The pair again lob acid bombs (“Here’s Beca Mitchell stepping onto the stage as small as the day she was born...”), but always seem like a pale imitation of Best in Show’s devilish duo Buck and Trevor (Fred Willard, Jim Piddiock).
The third and supposedly final instalment of the franchise – Last Call, Pitches throws down the tagline – Pitch Perfect 3 is essentially more of the same, with the law of diminishing returns in evidence. So while the Bellas vocalising every hook, beat and electronic pulse of Britney’s Toxic is stirring, it doesn’t pack quite the thrill of the tonsil-tunes in the 2012 original. There’s a reason why viewing figures dwindle on shows like The X Factor, The Voice and Glee, and no amount of fast cutting and powerhouse production can recapture the original freshness.
Likewise, the conflicts with other groups, the slapstick carnage, and the shifting relationship dynamics within the Bellas themselves feel like a cover version, especially as Beca once more juggles the pull of sisterhood with the push of a solo career.
But the movie, to its credit, knows it – directed by Step Up All In's’s Trish Sie and written by franchise stalwart Kay Cannon, it offers several smart, self-aware asides (“That doesn’t seem like a disaster waiting to happen”; “That’s a lot of exposition”). Meanwhile, the half-hearted remix of story beats is offset by an intriguing subplot involving Fat Amy’s long-lost father (John Lithgow).
On the evidence of PP3, a ‘comeback’ fourth outing is unnecessary (though no doubt inevitable if this proves a sell-out tour). But fans will find just enough heart-swelling moments involving friendships and family to enjoy one last group hug.