dir. Trish Sie
reviewed by Dakota Drobnicki
May I begin with how glad I am that Mike Myers seems to have given up on comedies? The soul-crushing anguish brought on by The Cat In The Hat and The Love Guru thankfully led to poor box office performance and Myers’ retreat into the shadows. He pops up for dramatic roles now and then, but seems to have kept good on his comedy retirement during the recent onslaught of refried sequels to age-old comedies. In doing so, he thankfully spared the public from the inevitable disappointment of either Austin Powers 4, So I Married Yet Another Axe Murderer or Wayne’s World 3.
Pitch Perfect 3 is probably the closest we’ll ever get to the experience of the latter. The original felt like a thinly veiled attempt to cash in on the sudden popularity of Glee‘s Warblers at the time, but it was awesome! It had a lot of heart, fun characters, and rousing performances to drive the narrative along. Sure, seeing your friends cover Anna Kendrick’s cup song all the time may have gotten old quick, but it really didn’t detract from how fun the movie was.
Then Pitch Perfect 2 happened. It was the millennial equivalent to Wayne’s World 2— while it did have laugh-out-loud moments here and there, it was mostly boring and vastly inferior to the original. It relied heavily on celebrity cameos for its biggest laughs, introduced a Bella from Guatemala where 95% of her dialogue was Latina stereotype humor, and brought in Hailee Steinfeld as a new Bella to “write” the bland radio hit “Flashlight”.
Did it ever make money, though! It actually grossed more than twice what the original did. A third movie was bound to happen, and as much as they like to say that this’ll be the last one, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this franchise turn into Bring It On and continue with a ton of direct-to-video sequels. Just wait until you pull up Netflix in 2020 and see Pitch Perfect: An Aca-Awesome Vacation, featuring a whole new cast and a cameo from Rebel Wilson that they’ll advertise like she’s in the entire thing.
In this installment of “This Ain’t Star Wars!”, your guide to The Last Jedi alternatives this holiday season, I’ll be looking at the second (and better) musical to open this week.
The Bellas have struggled to pull their lives together since graduation, so they decide to reunite and join a USO tour. Once they get there, they find out that the entire tour is a contest for one lucky group to open for DJ Khaled on the last stop; but this time, they’re competing with bands who (gasp!) play instruments! While they travel across Europe, they struggle to be this USO tour’s best act, Fat Amy is reunited with her absent father (John Lithgow), Beca is still trying to get her music producer foot in the door, Gail and John are still the annoying commentators and documentarians they’ve always been… it’s all familiar and all fun for fans!
Live-action comedies have become Hollywood’s laziest and least invested genre in the past couple years. Every now and then, you get a more ambitious comedy like The Interview, Keanu, Deadpool, or even The Brothers Grimsby, but those tend to either flop or cause industry-wide panic and/or political uproar. What we typically get instead tends to have hardly any script at all; they’re either streams of improv strung together with a threadbare plot, an excuse to go on vacation somewhere with its star, or a pile of raunchy jokes with little structure to back them up. Pitch Perfect 3 manages to be all three at once.
The Bellas are basically here to vacation in Europe, party with celebrities, and record another soundtrack album on the big screen. Fat Amy is making her same old raunchy jokes, and if you’ve liked them in previous installments, you’ll still like them here. She’s really the only one trying all that hard to make this an entertaining ride, and the movie shines when it stops to show off her excellent comic chops and timing. The other USO bands are a non-presence, since you can guess pretty easily how this movie will turn out before you even go to see it. DJ Khaled is the same walking meme he is in real life.
As you can imagine, this movie is lazily strung together with little regard for making a big impression or maintaining basic continuity. Pitch Perfect 2 begins with Fat Amy accidentally showing her vagina off to President Obama, and the closest this movie ever comes to a brazen move like that is putting a “Make America Eat Again” hat on her head for a few minutes. (Nothing ever comes of that.) There’s a super-anachronistic scene that flashes back to Fat Amy as a toddler wearing a Friendship Is Magic-era My Little Pony shirt, meaning that either Fat Amy is actually no older than eight or her dad time-traveled to get her some baby clothes.
One surprising positive is that they finally figured out how to write lines for Flo that weren’t Latina stereotype jokes, but the downside is that they also decided to give her less lines. When the movie turns into an action-thriller where Fat Amy gets to be a badass for 20 minutes, it’s at least a chunk of the movie with a decent amount of scripting behind it— which is more than I can say about The House, CHiPs or the Bad Moms and Daddy’s Home cash-ins from earlier in the year.
It actually took a lot of contemplating to decide whether 2 or 3 was the better movie, and frankly 2 is the clear winner. Both of them are awkwardly slapped together and don’t hold a candle to the first, but the second one at least had more of the series’ winning elements at play, it had funnier moments than this one does, and the performances and song choices were better to boot. I can’t say I expected to hear Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride” in the movie’s sole riff-off, but it didn’t make up for some of the other terrible choices of songs to perform like Daya’s “Sit Still, Look Pretty”. Bet you forgot all about that piece of top 40 trash, didn’t you?
If you’re a die-hard fan of the Bellas, there’s a good chance you’ve already ordered your ticket, and this will give you a little more of the elements you know and love from them. You’re not gonna get much of anything new this time around, nor will you get the Bellas at their biggest and best, but you’ll likely still enjoy it anyway. If you just want a decent comedy from this year, you can always stay home, rent The Big Sick, Girls Trip or The Hitman’s Bodyguard, and get some good laughs out of them. Otherwise, there’s always Jumanji.