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‘Pitch Perfect 3’ is a tacky third wheel on the otherwise charming franchise

By Steve Persall, Times Movie Critic
Published: December 20, 2017 Updated: December 20, 2017 at 04:11 PM
This image released by Universal Pictures shows a scene from "Pitch Perfect 3." (Quantrell D. Colbert/Universal Pictures via AP) NYET620

Pitch Perfect 3 totally eclipses the heart of a charming franchise, turning the scrappy Bellas a capella posse into needy Charlie’s Angels wannabes. It’s a movie taking popularity for granted, a finale saying goodbye with a "you’re welcome."

Because of course fans who adored stanzas 1 and 2, who picked up singing and Solo cups because Anna Kendrick did, demand to see her leap from an exploding yacht in a freeze-frame intro. That, and Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy faking martial arts until her stunt double takes over. Feels like a dream sequence until nobody wakes up.

The yacht belongs to Fat Amy’s dodgy father Fergus, giving John Lithgow a reason to manhandle an Aussie accent. Fergus has a nefarious motive for showing up 20 years after deserting the family. Lithgow sings Hard For Me to Say I’m Sorry in that accent. Twice. This is where the Pitch Perfect franchise has gone.

The Bellas are in the south of France where the yacht explodes on a USO tour doubling as a battle of the bands to decide who’ll open for DJ Khaled. That sentence alone shows how far we’re stretching here. Pitch Perfect 3 exists in a universe where DJ Khaled may want a tarted-up Pentatonix opening his hip-hop ragers. Mr. Khaled shouldn’t attempt recording an audiobook anytime soon.

Now the Bellas are underdogs since they aren’t a band; they make mouth music, as Elizabeth Banks’ "doc-a-mentary" producer says. The villains here are guitars and drums. In truly non-Bellas fashion, the villains eventually win.

There’s always time for a song, or snippets doled out in medleys or just ended to show something else. The Bellas ably cover Sia, George Michael and Britney Spears while allowing Kendrick and Hailee Steinfeld the spotlight songs their real-life chart success demands. Ruby Rose fronts their rival band Evermoist, sounding more like DJ Khaled’s type. Lithgow waits in the wings. Pitch Perfect 3 is like watching The Voice, wishing my theater chair could swivel around.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.