The charm starts to fade on the a cappella franchise.
Once there was a time when this series poked gentle fun at the vanilla sounds of a cappella singing. Can that ancient moment (2015’s Pitch Perfect 2) be over? Pitch Perfect 3 plays like a sugar-fueled sorority fantasy in which besties slay audiences worldwide—including hooting crowds of U.S. soldiers—all via the appeal of their vocalizing. Everybody deserves some kind of escape, right?
Almost everything about this second sequel feels both manic and tired, including its desperate lunge to get the graduated Bellas back into competition; here it’s a four-country singathon judged by DJ Khaled. But even though Pitch Perfect 3 has a predictability problem—it even spoils its own climax in the first few moments—it’s still likable. Anna Kendrick has a vagueness that makes her unconvincing as the squad’s ostensible alpha, and Rebel Wilson’s bawdiness is getting old, but Hailee Steinfeld only becomes more interesting with every film, most recently in The Edge of Seventeen. Her mystified stares here are better than any of the one-liners. Consistent displays of sisterhood paper over the weaker moments.
The movie is best when it’s focused on the music (prepare to hear the dorkiest version of “Toxic” more times than is healthy), not the silly subplots that have a way of sprouting up around third chapters. John Lithgow uncorks an atrocious Australian accent, almost worth the price of admission for its awfulness, and the fact that his character is masterminding a financial theft and hostage situation tells you how off-course this series has flown. But ex-Glee geeks and those who sing in the shower: Your passable time-waster has arrived.
Cast and crew