(On Cable TV, November 2018) The self-described Pitches are back for a third and perhaps redundant outing in Pitch Perfect 3, and from the action-packed first moments we’re clearly in a familiar kind of sequel template: Our protagonists thrown in international intrigue, far from home and their element. Fortunately, as the story flashes back to how we got here, there’s a little bit more to it: The post-college years have been inconsistently kind of the acapella signers of the series, and some of them are clearly pining for another go at past glory. An opportunity comes along in the form of a USO tour, landing them in picturesque surroundings even as the series strings along familiar hits and even more familiar plot devices. The result is fine for fans of the series, but even they may admit that there isn’t essential about this third movie, and that Pitch Perfect 3 should remain the final entry in the series. Anna Kendrick once again provides the dramatic lead, while Rebel Wilson is now dangerously close to over-exposure as her supporting character has now attained leading status. The blend of comedy with action is generally amusing, and while the result is filled with the overwhelming joy of the first instalment, there’s still quite a bit of fun in seeing the Bellas musically battle against Ruby Rose and friends, include John Lithgow (and DJ Khaled) in the universe of the series, and escape from certain death. Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins once again offer commentary, meaning that the film has made a good-faith effort to include everything funny about the previous movies in this one, even when it doesn’t quite make sense. The direction is fast-paced enough to skate over the most puzzling moments. Pitch Perfect 3 isn’t dishonourable, but if anyone has any sense it should stop there before a fourth instalment definitely damages the series. The fat lady has sung—it’s over now.
(On Cable TV, May 2016) The original Pitch Perfect was an all-too-rare surprise: A crackling good movie disguised under less-than-promising clothing. It not only featured a number of great performances (notably a career-best role for Anna Kendrick and a breakout turn by Rebel Wilson), but managed to hit, at least three times, a quasi-magical state of pure joy. All of this to say that it set almost ridiculous expectations for its rapidly inevitable sequel. To its credit, Pitch Perfect 2 does try to replicate much of its predecessor’s highlights. We get the signing performances, the banter between the characters, a joyous song battle, an underdog competition and some hilariously inappropriate colour commentary. Elizabeth Banks does well at the helm, and the vast majority of the first film’s cast is back for more of the same. It succeeds at being a breezy comedy, toning down some of the original’s weaknesses (there aren’t that many vomit jokes, for one thing, and the romance is far funnier here) and maintaining much of the charm. It even throws in some fan-service homoeroticism for good measure. Pitch Perfect 2 is not, however, quite as surprising nor quite as successful as the original—something that should be considered inevitable rather than disappointing. Those who liked the first movie should at least keep this in mind: the sequel is a decent follow-up and it should flow well in a back-to-back viewing.