[Screen It]

(2017) (Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson) (PG-13)

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Musical Comedy: An all-female a cappella singing group tries to rekindle their college glory days by competing in a USO tour challenge involving other, more talented bands.
The various members of the Bellas a cappella singing group have all graduated college and are now in the "real world." Beca (ANNA KENDRICKS) is a music producer who is trying to manage a young, white hip-hop artist who she despises. Chloe (BRITTANY SNOW) is in training to be a veterinarian, but would rather be singing out loud. Fat Amy (REBEL WILSON) is a street performer, but otherwise unemployed and living off Beca. And Aubrey (ANNA CAMP) laments over her absentee military father and comes up with the idea for the Bellas to perform on a USO tour so she can connect with him.

The only Bella still in school is singer/songwriter Emily (HAILEE STEINFELD), and she tags along on the European tour for fun. Their first stop is Spain, and we come to learn that Aubrey isn't the only one with "daddy issues." Amy's criminal father, Fergus (JOHN LITHGOW), shows up and tries to make amends for all of the years he was a derelict dad. But it's clear that he hasn't left his shady past behind him. We soon come to learn that Amy has a bank account in the Cayman Islands she knew nothing about that contains $180 million ... and her dad wants access to it and is willing to kidnap and even harm Amy's friends to get it.

Meanwhile, the commentators from the first two films, Gail (ELIZABETH BANKS) and John (JOHN MICHAEL HIGGINS), tag along throughout the movie filming a snarky documentary on the Bellas. Chloe falls for a hunky officer named Chicago (MATT LANTER). And Beca attracts the eye of one of DJ Khaled's producers, Theo (GUY BURNET), who makes her a life-changing offer she can't turn down ... but she might because it will mean separation from the Bellas.

OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
The new sequel "Pitch Perfect 3" has a running time of 93 minutes. Without the musical numbers, the film is maybe 33 minutes. Combined, that hour and a half plus three feels like it is an hour longer than the 152 minutes "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" flickers across the screen. My God, what a bad movie! I was in a cappella Hell. Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and the others have finally given the public a new form of music. A caHella!

Seriously, the songs in this movie have an absolute bludgeoning quality to them. There are so many of them, performed so often, edited with strobe-light ruthlessness, and sung by a bunch of characters who look like they are caffeinated to alarmingly dangerous levels, that I was actively rejecting every sound and image that assaulted my senses by the half-hour mark. I was like a baby in a high-chair refusing his Gerber strained peas. And no amount of "choo-choo" coaxing was bringing me back.

I gave a really positive review to the first "Pitch Perfect." The songs were fun, there was some fine character work, and Rebel Wilson emerged as a star from that film. The second film was bigger, funnier, and mostly held serve. This one? It's a cash grab from the very concept stage, and a soulless one at that. It doesn't even appear to like its characters, and that's always a bit sad.

Kendrick, Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp and various minor, one-note hangers-on return from the previous two films. These ladies are supposed to be so close, but two of them are marginalized as part of a recurring comic gag that's more cruel than funny. In another instance, two characters who have known each other for three films now have a heart-to-heart talk. And one of them isn't quite sure of the other's name. In the scenes before and after, the characters preach "sisterhood" like it's a campaign slogan.

At any rate, Kendrick's Beca, Wilson's Amy (who is still referred too often as "Fat Amy"), and the others are former members of the competitive Bellas a cappella singing group. They sang in college together, and now they're out in the "real world" with jobs like music producer, veterinary intern, street performer, and food truck entrepreneur. They are followed around by the pathetic show commentators from the first two films, Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins), who are filming a snide documentary about the Bellas fading into mediocrity.

When the Bellas are at their lowest point and missing each other and the former university limelight, Camp's Aubrey comes up with the idea of entering the group in a USO tour of American military bases in Europe (only those near gorgeous resorts, of course) and competing with three other bands to be the opening act for DJ Khaled. If you have no idea who DJ Khaled is and his importance in today's pop culture, this movie is definitely not for you.

The movie sets up this competition fairly well, pitting the Bellas most directly against a mean girls/all girls band named Evermoist. That results in the film's best line when Amy retorts, "My grandma is in a band. It's called Nevermoist." More of this kind of snappy dialogue would have REALLY helped the film. Dialogue of any kind would have really been nice actually. But instead, pretty much every exchange or scene set-up is a prelude to a shrill, tiresome musical number.

But then, the film completely abandons its premise at about the one-hour mark, takes a severe left turn, and becomes a hostage drama! It seems Amy's criminal father (John Lithgow, flat-out embarrassing himself here playing an Aussie) finds out his daughter has a $180 million bank account in the Cayman Islands she knew nothing about and tries to bilk her. When she refuses, he first gets physical with her. Ewww! He then kidnaps all of her friends except Beca and threatens to execute them on his yacht if she doesn't cooperate!

The film then turns Amy into some kind of "Matrix"-like action hero, capable of taking out a half-dozen huge henchmen at a time with some insane martial-arts skills. The whole thing culminates in an image you've already seen in the trailers: Amy and Beca running just ahead of a giant fireball, jumping off the yacht, and into the water below (Amy face-plants on a rowboat). Never mind that at any time, the kidnapped Bellas were never tied up or held at gunpoint or in a locked room and could have jumped ship like Beca and Amy did and swam about 200 yards to shore.

What an awful movie. The music really needs to stop for this franchise. I give the film a 1 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed December 19, 2017 / Posted December 22, 2017

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