Sorry, Pitches, but it’s a good thing “Pitch Perfect 3 ” is billed as the farewell tour for this musical franchise. It hasn’t jumped the shark, exactly, but it does send its singing Bellas jumping off an exploding yacht. Because that’s what a cappella competitions are about!
The cast may be delightful and the musical sequences shine, but after three go-rounds, the premise is played out. Many of the funny lines feel forced and the whole film seems like it’s trying too hard. The success of the first two movies means this final installment enjoyed a bigger budget, evidenced by glamorous European settings and the yacht explosion, but it’s all overkill for a story centered on the joy of music and the bonds of female friendship.
Not to say “Pitch Perfect 3” is a total bust. The performances dazzle (director Trish Sie is a veteran of music videos), Anna Kendrick has a gorgeous voice, and Rebel Wilson soars, her character Fat Amy no longer just the butt of every obvious joke about body size.
This is really Wilson’s movie. Performing physical comedy with the ease of Lucille Ball, the Australian actress literally throws herself into her scenes, including a dynamic fight sequence where she uses sausages as nunchucks. It’s high-stakes hilarity, and Wilson is even more capable and committed in executing the film’s fight choreography than she is during the dance numbers.
The Bellas graduated from college in “Pitch Perfect 2,” so there are no more a cappella competitions for them. But as the women struggle to find footing as adults in the workforce, they long for simpler times of singing together. One member, whose father is in the military, suggests they join a USO tour to entertain the troops.
The tour also ends up being a competition, of course, overseen by DJ Khaled, who cameos as himself. It’s an overwrought setup that the screenplay by Kay Cannon and Mike White tries to justify with self-aware quips like, “That was a lot of exposition.”
The Bellas are woefully outmatched by their competitors, who all play instruments as well as sing. The group’s main rival is the awesomely named Evermoist, an all-female band fronted by actress Ruby Rose, who could have used a bigger role.
Thankfully, music remains a highlight here. There are the requisite riff-offs and playful pop covers. The “Toxic” routine that opens the film is outstanding.
Mysteriously in tow on the USO tour are a cappella commentators Gail and John (Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins), who presided over past “Pitch Perfect” competitions. The snarky duo has always openly doubted if not downright hated the Bellas, but now they’re apparently making a documentary about the group, which is weird.
The story goes over the top with John Lithgow, who shows up with an extreme Australian accent as Fat Amy’s estranged dad. There are also a couple of romantic subplots that don’t really pay off, although the meet-cute between mostly mute Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) and a silent DJ (D.J. Looney) is a surprise treat.
Where the previous films painted the Bellas as scrappy underdogs, here they’re kind of sad sacks who can’t cope with adult life. That’s a real challenge for anyone after college, but fans of the Bellas know they have their friendship to fall back on. In the “Pitch Perfect” world, that’s what a cappella competitions are all about.
“Pitch Perfect 3,” a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “crude and sexual content, language and some action.” Running time: 94 minutes. Two stars out of four.
MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .