Followers of me and my bullshit might know that I’m an unapologetic advocate for 2012’s Pitch Perfect. My undying love for Anna Kendrick aside, I think it’s a legitimately well-written sports movie (adapted from Mickey Rapkin’s memoir by 30 Rock alum Kay Cannon) with a quick wit and an eye for satire, more a relative of Clueless than of Bring it On. It’s a movie about a rag-tag group of misfits looking for inclusion and harmony, a movie that understands why music is inherently symbolic and uses that built-in layer to communicate larger themes. It was a big enough sleeper hit to earn a sequel (2015’s aptly-named Pitch Perfect 2) which, though it doubled its predecessor’s box office take to become the most successful musical comedy of all time, also doubled down on the dopier and more obvious comedic elements before devolving into The Fat Amy Show and abandoning everything that made the original effective. It was a huge disappointment, a strong indication that the formula was already tired. Still, there was a reasonable expectation that 2017’s Pitch Perfect 3 might right the ship and send the girls out on a high note (pun absolutely intended). It doesn’t. Pitch Perfect 3 is a sloppy, meandering nightmare that manages to be worse than its predecessor, a cast vacation masquerading as a movie.
Pitch Perfect 3 is a textbook perpetrator of what I’m going to call The Jurassic World Swindle: It’s a sequel that retains many of the tangible details from the original film (an opening number, a riff-off, Fat Amy jokes, maxims about the importance of female friendship, more Fat Amy jokes, someone falling down, and a closing number), but it doesn’t seem to know or care that these pieces are supposed to stem from character and fit in the context of a larger narrative. For example: Fat Amy calls herself fat so that “twig bitches…don’t do it behind my back.” The irony of her constant self-deprecation is that she’s in fact deeply insecure, which becomes relevant later on when the girls reconcile their differences (finding the aforementioned harmony) before Pitch Perfect’s final act. Here, her fat jokes amount to a series of mean-spirited non-sequiturs that go nowhere. Or consider the riff-off, the a cappella tournament where groups perform songs that fit into randomly-chosen categories: In the original film, it’s an expository device that introduces Beca to the Bellas’ goofy and self-important world (and her rousing rendition of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” proves that she may actually fit into it). Here, the girls insist on riffing-off against a group of musicians who’ve never heard of the game and then lose because they don’t have instruments. The competition subplot then hangs out in the background until it solves itself. So, why a riff-off? Because we recognize it. Because of The Jurassic World Swindle.