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Movie Review: 'Pitch Perfect 3' (2017)

The final installment scores a few solid laughs - if not a lot of high notes.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures/Gold Circle Productions

Hello, one and all.

So...a funny little story. This is the first "Pitch Perfect" movie of the franchise that I've seen in an actual theater. If I may confess, the 2012 inception film didn't exactly entice me to see it in a crowded theater in the first place. I thought it was some cheap "Glee" clone played for laughs; which, yes, I surmised perfectly. Then, I borrowed a Blu Ray copy from a friend of mine. As the Universal logo came with its own a cappella track and a group of young, nubile boys began riffing Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music", I was instantly hooked; although, the Anna Camp scene where she serenades an entire front row with her undigested breakfast, lunch and dinner, gave me second thoughts about continuing on. But, I stayed with it - and became an instant (but, still much to my painful chagrin) fan of the film.

The first movie, which spearheaded Anna Kendrick's movie, and singing, career, as well as give a well-known comedienne from Australia named Rebel Wilson a breakthrough to a career here in the states, was going for one thing and one thing only. Crowd-pleasing. It effectively employed a can't-miss formula of a marginalized, underdog group of misfits (this being a collegiate female a cappella music group, the Barden Bellas) coming out on top and having to prove the naysayers wrong. They were an admittedly fun, and funny motley crew of different personalities and yes, even their music performance sets, while nothing to write home about, had plenty of energy, movement, moxie, spark and even serviceable melodic arranging. Then, (surprise, surprise) the first film was so popular, it got a 2015 sequel. Clearly, the formula clicked and yet, somehow, the movie was still not screened by me at a darkened theater. Once it hit the digital HD market, I rented a copy to stream. To my shock and amazement, the sequel bested the original; a rare feat, indeed! Wilson proved herself a human comic dynamo as Patricia "Fat Amy" in the opening sequence when our then-president had to witness her dangling from a ceiling with her lower-half costume strategically ripped open in the area where we all start life. The script was sharper, the jokes even funnier and even the song sets had a nice panache and polish to them, that almost broke the karaoke sound barrier. It certainly didn't hurt having the Green Bay Packers riff off Destiny's Child in one gut-busting, but still bordering on sweet, man-candy music sequence!

Now, we have the third and, reportedly, the final movie in the series. This time, I vowed I would enjoy this last one (if in fact, it's so) in a dark theater– without popcorn, soda and jujubees, on account of my less-than-stellar budget. So, was it any good? Well...let's just say that if it is the last one, please keep that promise. The final movie showed obvious signs of wear-and-tear in the supposed infallible formula and the movie's plot feels like its gliding strictly on autopilot. Despite some changes in the story arc (none of the previous a cappella boy bands made the cut this time, so no Bumper and Jesse; played by Skylar Astin and Adam DeVine who were Beca and Fat Amy's love interests), the movie seems to be wanting to jam everything in, even the kitchen sink. Okay, make it an active beehive, in a party for super music mogul DJ Khaled, in a role that I honestly pray doesn't give him the acting bug. Back for round three are the cantankerous commentators from both films, played by John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks, who were sort of great clones of any character that appeared in many of Christopher Guest's movies. This time, however, despite a few funny humdingers and digs at the Bellas - as the song goes: the thrill is gone.

The plot gist (bear with me, please; because I even got confused). The Bellas (no longer affiliated with Barden University) are now in a slump until their former choir leader (Camp) suggests that they go for a gig in the USO on account of her father being in the military. Fat Amy is unwittingly reunited with her father (an amusing John Lithgow sporting the worst Aussie accent ever; strange considering neither Hugh Jackman nor Nicole Kidman ever have trouble perfecting our accents for movie roles) who may have more in mind than a sweet father/daughter reunion. And Beca (Kendrick), the most talented one of the group, may or may not finally fulfill her aspirations to become a full-fledged music producer. The plot veers strangely into "Charlie's Angels" territory when the Bellas (spoiler alert, if you even give a flying shit) are faced with Fat Amy's father's plan to extort money from his daughter and we are treated to a bizarre near-flawless mimic of Britney Spears' 2004 hit: "Toxic" on a yacht called the (get this), "Fat Dingo Bitch".

In closing, did I enjoy it? Yes (although I it was a major "a-ca" step down from the freshness and joy of no. 2), but with massive reservation. It stopped being about the group and became about one person only – Rebel's Fat Amy. Not a problem, per se; but all the other characters took a back seat and it became, in a nutshell, 'The Fat Amy Show". I do fully enjoy Wilson's adeptness at physical comedy and her generous, often amusing facial mugging. But, it was clear that the film's writers (Kay Cannon wrote the first two and then co-wrote this one) didn't trust their material to be funny on its own human terms, so they decided to let Wilson chew (or overchew) the scenery for the sake of the movie. It was fine when she was the comic relief of the first two; but was it really necessary for Wilson to be center stage all throughout? Even the "Charlie's Angels" plot retread felt like they were desperate for keeping the audience from getting bored. As for the highlight – The Riff-Off, which was an absolute treat in the last one – they even decided to explain the plot mechanisms to the audience and yeah, we were supposed to get a real kick over some stiff competition with an a cappella group toe-to-toeing with actual musicians. I mean - "a ca"-what the fuck?!?!

A mildly diverting chapter this time out, albeit their final one. But, what a pity that this last one was the one I decided to pay hard-earned bonus work money to see. Sorry, this swan song really "a ca"-sucked.

Rated PG-13 for language and (lots) of suggestive sexual innuendo.

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