Pitch Perfect 3 sends the Barden Bellas off in style

Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and the rest of the a cappella crew reunite for one last crowd-pleasing tour

PITCH PERFECT 3 (Trish Sie). 93 minutes. Opens Friday (December 22). See listing. Rating: NNN

Not every franchise needs to chug along forever. Hell, not every movie needs to become a franchise. If you’d told me there would be three Pitch Perfect movies back when the first one opened five years ago, I would have asked you why, and then how. But when a studio stumbles onto a tween-friendly gold mine, you can’t really blame it for milking the thing to death.

And for all that, Pitch Perfect 3 is a satisfying farewell to a franchise that pretty much said everything it needed to say the first time out. After the middling PP2, which just reset all the relationships and found the Barden Bellas in an high-stakes international competition, PP3 takes a much more casual approach. All your friends are back! They sing and dance! Sometimes they set a hotel suite on fire! That’s cool, right?

This one finds Anna Kendrick’s Beca and the rest of the Bellas – hellraiser Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), controlling Chloe (Brittany Snow), persnickety Aubrey (Anna Camp) and the other, less-defined members – impulsively joining a USO tour in order to stave off their unspoken anxiety about growing up and moving on.

There are other bands to compete with, and potential love interests to flirt with, and Fat Amy has to deal with the reappearance of her absent dad (John Lithgow, murdering an Australian accent). And also DJ Khaled is there.

But none of it really matters screenwriters Kay Cannon and Mike White set up a bunch of really obvious obstacles so the Bellas can ignore them or even openly mock them, while director Sie (Step Up All In) shoots the musical numbers with camerawork that’s as lively as the performances.

It’s pointless, but the characters seem to understand that weirdly enough, the best comparison is to Magic Mike XXL, which was also about a bunch of friends putting real life on hold for one last blowout – though that film had a melancholy undercurrent that no one has any time for here.

The only difference here is that Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins are standing on the sidelines doing that snarky commentary thing – the one element of the Pitch Perfect series that’s truly worn out its welcome.

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