Grade: C
Entire family: No
2017, 93 min., Color
Comedy, Music
Universal Pictures
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, and some action
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio:
Bonus features: C+
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Trailer
Amazon link

Good music, not-so-good movie.

That just about covers it, unless you happen to be an Anna Kendrick, Hailee Steinfeld, or Rebel Wilson fan.

The original Pitch Perfect was a perfect combination of a cappella performance and competition drama, with plenty of romantic sideplots to add interest. Hitting theaters just three years after Glee captured fans’ hearts and imaginations, the 2012 film had fans begging for more. In Hollywood, of course, that means sequels, and sequels, especially with dance, cheerleading, and vocal music movies, almost always illustrate the law of diminishing returns. Each movie seems to get a little worse, until finally fans can’t take it any more.

Pitch Perfect was a strong B+, and while Pitch Perfect 2 wasn’t as successful, it was still fun because the sideplots and international flavor were enough to compensate for the plot being pretty much the same. And when it came right down to it, the other groups that the Bellas competed against had enough personality and interest to make you care about the competition.

Pitch Perfect 3 proves, if nothing else, that screenwriter Kay Cannon is running out of ideas. Now the Bellas are so desperate (this should have been the first warning sign) that they jump at a chance to perform in a USO show that’s touring Europe. That in itself could have led to all sorts of different plots. I mean, how hard would it have been to look up some of the old Bob Hope TV specials to find inspiration? And when you set a film in Spain, Italy, and France, you’d think that even more opportunities would present themselves.

Instead, Cannon, who also wrote the screenplays for the first two films, takes a cookie-cutter approach and fabricates yet another competition. Only this time, it’s whichever act on the USO tour “wins” gets to open for DJ Khaled for a final concert or something or other. But the stakes aren’t high enough, and the competition seems trumped up rather than anything legit. Or maybe it just seems that way because there really isn’t much of a competition—more turn-taking onstage than anything. The whole plot has the quick-and-compact feel of a 22-minute Scooby-Doo! episode, with way too much time spent on moping and awkwardness.

Fans may be disappointed that the sideplots aren’t romantic this time around, or at least the ones that flirt with romance aren’t realized. Instead, we get hokey sideplots involving fathers. One Bella’s father got them the gig in the first place, but saddens his daughter by not showing up for their concert. And in the silliest sideplot John Lithgow appears as the father of Fat Amy (Wilson) who goes from trying to con his daughter into giving him access to hidden family money of more than $100 million to turning full-blown Bond villain, though the tongue isn’t planted firmly enough in cheek.

The bottom line is that the songs and performances are very good, and the music is almost wall-to-wall—which is also good for fans. You wish the plot wasn’t so hokey, but in the end it’s all about the music—which admittedly sounds fabulous with DTS-X sound. Diehard fans may find that’s enough, but I found myself thinking that I probably could have just bought the album. Yes, there are some laugh-out-loud moments—some of which are provided by two a cappella announcers—but not nearly enough of them. And yes, it’s always good to watch the talented Kendrick perform, but this sequel just doesn’t have the energy of the other two.

Critics at RottenTomatoes.com gave Pitch Perfect a 79 percent “fresh” rating, while Pitch Perfect 2 earned a 65 percent “fresh” rating. As for Pitch Perfect 3? It got a 32 percent “rotten” rating, meaning only 32 critics out of 100 thought the film “fresh.” I don’t always agree with my fellow Tomatometer critics, but this time they’re right.

Language: One middle finger and one slang expression for “breasts”
Sex: One woman gropes another through clothing a woman gives a man a “nipple cripple”
Violence: A kidnapping and explosion, with some shooting, is pretty much all
Adult situations: Partying and drinking, though there is no drunkenness
Takeaway: This DTS-X sound really rocks, and I have to say that I really enjoyed the music, including the token opposition band Saddle Up.

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