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Kernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernal (2 out of 5)

MPAA Rating: PG-13       Length: 93 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 12+. This final installment in the comedy-musical ‘Pitch Perfect’ films is fairly in line with preceding films, with a fair amount of sexually themed humor, including some jokes about women’s genitalia and some jokes about the attractiveness of various people, as well as the typically self-deprecating humor from the character who calls herself “Fat Amy.” Also this time around, a character is implied to be a drug lord, so there is a kidnapping subplot, some hand-to-hand combat, a massive fire, and an explosion. Some cursing, some vulgar jokes, and some cleavage.

The ‘Pitch Perfect’ franchise loses a significant amount of luster with ‘Pitch Perfect 3,’ a finale that gives its characters too little to do and too few songs to sing. The story moves too much into comedy-action territory to truly feel like the scrappy musical this trilogy started out being.

By Roxana Hadadi

PitchPerfect3 ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewThe “Pitch Perfect” trilogy has moved forward at a phenomenal speed, and “Pitch Perfect 3” is the disappointing conclusion to that rapid growth.

The first film in this franchise focused on a scrappy young woman devoted to music despite her family’s disapproval, and its cult success (and the radio omnipresence of that “Cups” song) led to the bigger set pieces and larger-scale performances of “Pitch Perfect 2,” which focused on an international singing competition. But with “Pitch Perfect 3,” which veers into action territory and incorporates real-life pop star DJ Khaled, the trilogy loses its way, leaving behind what worked so well in the preceding films.

Perhaps part of that is intentional, since “Pitch Perfect 3” directly addresses how people change after college—how romantic relationships that feel so life-changing can fall apart, how friendships become distant and lose intensity, how dreams that once were so primary fade to the background in the everyday reality of rent and bills. The narrative touches on those issues, which college viewers of the first film may particularly recognize now, five years after “Pitch Perfect.”

But the story also adds in a drug-dealer subplot, an extended cameo from DJ Khaled, and yet another musical competition that feels very low stakes compared with the international one featured in “Pitch Perfect 2.” It’s too many elements for a narrative that used to be about a cappella singing. And without a straightforward storyline or clear competition for the Barden Bellas, like the German group Das Sound Machine in “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Pitch Perfect 3” feels kind of aimless.

The movie begins after graduation, with most of the Barden Bellas living in New York City. Beca (Anna Kendrick, of “Trolls”) is working as a music producer, but with clients who don’t appreciate her talent. Amy (Rebel Wilson, of “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb”) is unemployed. Chloe (Brittany Snow) is hoping to get into vet school, while Cynthia (Ester Dean, of “Ice Age: Continental Drift”) just failed flight school. Flo is toiling in a smoothie truck, while Aubrey (Anna Camp) is growing bored of the clients at her leadership retreat.

All of them miss the glory days of singing together, but an opportunity to do so again presents itself when Aubrey suggests that her father, a high-ranking military official, get them a spot on a USO tour. They’ll perform on the same roster as an all-girl rock group, a sort of folksy country band, and DJ/rapper duo—all of whom uses instruments, which the Bellas don’t. Will the crowds enjoy the Bellas, when they don’t have backing music? It’s a question that takes on more urgency when the Bellas learn that DJ Khaled, who is also on the tour, will choose his next opening act from the four groups. Can they gain his attention with only their voices?

That would have been a fine storyline on its own, even if it would have been somewhat of a retread of “Pitch Perfect 2”—the Bellas facing off against various singing groups, challenging them to riff-offs, and performing together both casually and with choreography. We get some of that in “Pitch Perfect 3,” and we briefly see each group perform, but a significant amount of screentime is given to a storyline with Amy and her father (played by a hamming-it-up John Lithgow), who reappears in her life claiming to want to reconnect. Maybe the subplot is supposed to be funny? But actually, it feels like a waste of time, separating Amy’s character from the rest of the group and leading to some random action sequences that feel like they belong to a different film altogether.

Still, if you enjoy the Bellas, you’ll be pleased by the times they do sing (a party song riff-off is solid, as are performances of Britney Spears’s “Toxic” and George Michael’s “Freedom!”) and wish they did it more. The jokes and one-liners are still pleasantly cutting and self-deprecating, if sometimes a little mean; the supporting turns from Elizabeth Banks (of “Power Rangers”) and John Michael Higgins (of “Planes: Fire and Rescue”) are still hilarious; and the ultimate message—of family affection but the pursuit of individual dreams—is a mature one that reflects how the characters in this franchise had grown. If only “Pitch Perfect 3” had given them the opportunity to do more together, it would have been a better conclusion to this trilogy that once had so much energy—and unity.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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