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Soundtracking: Hustlers

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Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
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Review: "Pitch Perfect 3" 

By Spencer Coile 

Pitch Perfect could not have arrived at a better time. Its release in 2012 was met with solid reviews and box office figures, but that was just the beginning for the fandom that would ensue. It told the story of the Barden Bellas, an all-female university a cappella group led by Anna Kendrick vying for the top spot at Nationals. Blending Top 40 hits and an underdog narrative was effective. Soon, you could not escape the presence of singing groups and acapella wordplay ("aca-scuse me?").

The arrival of Pitch Perfect 2 in 2015 proved that the Bellas were no fluke. The second film dipped in quality, but was a worthy successor. Now, in 2017, Pitch Perfect 3 is the (supposedly) final installment...

Pitch Perfect 3 picks up three years after the second entry into the series. Each member of the Bellas is done with college and feels disillusioned with her life. As they unsuccessfully cope with the real world, they are presented with a unique opportunity: an overseas USO tour. The Bellas leave their miserable lives behind in order to perform with one another once again. Naturally, it is not as easy as they initially thought -- there, they have to compete with bands that pride themselves on using instruments; a stark difference from their usual competition of fellow a cappella teams. Oh, and this all happens in the first fifteen minutes. 

Indeed, the exposition in Pitch Perfect 3 comes quick and with a heavy-handed; Flo (Chrissie Fit) makes this very comment, a meta-commentary on the film itself. For instance, Beca (Kendrick) and "Fat Amy" (Rebel Wilson) lament over breaking up with their boyfriends from the previous two films in such a way that it does a disservice to the original films. It plays like a quick fix to write out these two characters and that's a running problem with Pitch Perfect 3. Rather than being an organic continuation, screenwriters Kay Cannon and Mike White have pieced together a threadbare story and tried to put band-aids over the parts that were not consistent with the film's predecessors. 

I could harp on other problems but strip away the uncomfortable dialogue, wacky storylines (John Lithgow shows up as Fat Amy's father, in a plot that feels completely separate from anything else going on), and insignificant new characters, and you will still find something rewarding in Pitch Perfect 3. When all is said and done, this is a story about the bond between women. And fortunately, the film has not forgotten that.

The key factor beyond that bond in the success of the Pitch Perfect series is the music. There is always something electric when these ladies perform together (although it's strange that no one seems to realize how good they are here until the very end, three films in). The musical numbers are winning and surprisingly heartfelt. 

Pitch Perfect 3 is about growing up and moving on. The characters are in a rut and only want to sing again because they feel they have nothing else -- even if they learn over time that this is not the case. And beyond the film's many flaws, it is this theme that sticks. Realizing that it is time to leave a chapter of your life behind is scary, but there is nothing you can do but face it. 

In the film's climactic sequence, the Bellas perform one last time together. Their resistance to change -- be it leaving the Bellas behind or even their refusal to incorporate instruments into their performances -- is, at last confronted. Their performance of "Freedom! '90" is not only effective because it's a great song but because it does feel like the end of an era. There are no tricks up their sleeve, no choreography, nothing. It is simply a group of women coming together for one last hurrah and saying good-bye. 

Hopefully, Pitch Perfect 3 will be the final installment and not only because each film got progressively worse. Pitch Perfect was about creating a family, Pitch Perfect 2 was about maintaining that family, and finally, Pitch Perfect 3 grapples with the unforeseeable future. It's daunting and it's scary, but as long as you have your family beside you, anything is aca-possible as you move on.

Grade: C

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Reader Comments (3)

So I spent forever trying to find out what the song was that Fat Amy’s Dad (John Lithgow) sang to her in Pitch Perfect 3. It is “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” by Chicago. I loved that song growing up, but had forgotten all about it until I watched the movie and it drove me nuts trying to find the complete credits that showed it. I hope this made your day better if you have been looking for it! Here’s the link to the video on YouTube -

December 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAlohaJosh

I had fun with this, but it's clearly the least of the franchise. Heavier on music, lighter on jokes.

December 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

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September 25, 2018 | Unregistered Commenternagar

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