Minor Spoilers ahead.
The Bellas have returned to give us one final outing that sends these characters out on a high note; at least they would if the plot of this third, and now hopefully final, film didn’t completely trip and fall on its face. There’s a number of good moments here, but each consistently gets matched with or overridden by half baked and self destructive ones. Pitch Perfect 3 is trying to be too many things at once; another entry in the franchise, an emotional and nostalgic farewell saga, and, ridiculously, a James Bond action adventure. All of this is jam packed into a 93 minute running time. Yikes.
At the beginning we find Beca struggling to work with below-average hip hop artists as a music producer. Fat Amy is having no luck getting her one woman Amy Winehouse cover show off the ground on Broadway while Chloe isn’t confident that she is going to get into Veterinary School. For all three, as well as the other original members of the Barden Bellas, the highlight of their life is a reunion performance at a bar, only to arrive and realize that your act isn’t listed on the card. In other words, it’s an excuse for everyone to get together and hang out. It’s heartwarming to see these women, amidst their real life struggles, still trying to keep their relationships intact. The main character is Anna Kendrick’s Beca, but the heart and soul of the series is how the women come together as a group.
Come together they do for a USO tour in Europe where the standout act will get to open for DJ Khaled at the final city; of which they get an invite to because Aubrey’s father works in the military. It’s a convenient, if not eye-rolling, excuse to find a place for the Bellas to perform. Luckily when they do perform they provide the best moments of the film, the standout being a rendition of Britney Spears’s ‘Toxic’. For all three of the films in this series now, the best moments are when the women are together on a stage performing, sadly this film just does not understand that and we end up with shockingly little screen time devoted to a Capella singing.
The biggest cause of the film’s problems lies in the B story in which Amy’s father, played by John Lithgow sporting a horrendous Australian accent, shows up trying to reconnect. (Seriously though, the accent is so bad I legitimately believed Amy’s family background was Irish.) Amy’s father is a criminal of some sort, probably a drug dealer although that is only hinted at and never fully explained. His arrival completely derails the progress of the USO tour and the Bellas desire to compete and perform. It’s a big distraction that allows Amy to become a kick ass hand-to-hand combat fighter. Suddenly there is kidnapping and explosions when just ten minutes ago the girls were worried about what DJ Khaled thought of them after they torched his hotel room. The tonal change in the plot is completely unwarranted and it makes the Bellas, most likely, final appearance together feel like a complete waste of time. The ending scene tries to refocus the story but what results is unearned and the intended emotional payoff of the sequence doesn’t exist because the filmmakers got side tracked on what makes this series truly special. The characters deserved a much better ride into the sunset.