Pitch Perfect 3 feels like the sort of sequel we might have expected from this franchise in ten years rather than a mere two years after the last installment. Picking up on the lives of the Bellas in the years after their college stardom, this entry attempts to build a plot around nostalgia for times long past that just aren’t that long ago, which isn’t so much a criticism of quality as it is a question of motivation. Sequels usually require a creative reason for existing to coincide with the financial realities of revisiting a popular story or cast, but the unfortunate fact of Pitch Perfect 3 is that it seemingly has no aspirations beyond cashing in on the success of the previous installments.
We return to Beca (Anna Kendrick) right as she quits her job as a music producer, citing creative differences with the idiot musicians she butts heads with. After telling her roommate Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), the two suddenly remember that a Bellas reunion is going on that evening. With the group reunited, they decide to go on one last tour as part of a USO show Aubrey’s (Anna Camp) military father organized. The tour also turns out to be a competition with instrumented bands to gain the attention of a famous DJ looking to sign a new artist, so the Bellas try one last shot at cooperative stardom.
This hodge-podge of storylines functions as less of a fully realized sequel than a combination of rehashed ideas and several new ones, providing neither a thematic throughline for the film or a coherent arc for the characters to communally follow. At times it wants to be about legitimizing a cappella singing in contrast to instrumented bands, at others it wants to be about getting the gang back together for one last hurrah, and still others it wants to be a bizarre action parody starring Rebel Wilson, who is still giving her all to a franchise that might be her only claim to fame. That might be a shame considering how consistently her laugh lines land, and it acts as a stark contrast to Anna Kendrick, who has already moved on to bigger things and is practically sleepwalking through her performance toward what I’m sure was a very large paycheck being dangled just out of frame.
Even so, the film largely supports itself on the charisma of a cast well-accustomed to their characters, Kendrick notwithstanding. Not every character is afforded an arc—at least not in more than passing dialogue reference—but Brittany Snow, Hailee Steinfeld, Ester Dean, Chrissie Fit, and Hana Mae Lee feel like they never stopped playing their respective Bellas, and their comic delivery does a lot to save the film from being a total chore. Sure, the jokes don’t hit as hard as they once did, nor are the situations the cast find themselves in particularly inspired beyond how much they jump the shark, but the experience is breezy and light enough that it isn’t going to leave the diehard fans entirely disappointed.
And really, if all you’re here to see is some good a cappella performance and one last farewell from the characters you love, Pitch Perfect 3 is adequate. It certainly shouldn’t be anyone’s starting point for these films, and it definitely doesn’t hold a candle to the fully fleshed out films that came before it, but as far as blatant encore franchise exercises are concerned, this is more a flat note than a wrong one.