The Pitch Perfect series has brought about unexpected popularity – the original 2012 film conjured up a palpable charm that spread quickly and resonated strongly with audiences. Its 2015 sequel was a rehash of the original and lacked the charm and appeal of its predecessor. Pitch Perfect 2 made a whole bunch of money, though, so despite it losing steam there would eventually be a third film in the unexpected franchise.

So here we are in 2017 and Pitch Perfect 3 has arrived. With Trish Sie (Step Up All In) serving as director, and based on a script from Kay Cannon and Mike White, it’s apparent there’s nothing left to sing. What began as a delightful and humorous look at a niche group of collegians preparing for adulthood has somehow mutated into an action-comedy that tosses aside nearly everything the first two films built. Emulating a broad James Bond blueprint by using European locales and choreographed fight scenes is out of place and scrapes the bottom of the barrel. Music is the only connecting thread (which is still fun and energetic), and they double down on their offbeat brand of humor which misses way more than it hits.

Nearly every actor outside of Rebel Wilson phoned it in – Anna Kendrick looked like she couldn’t wait for final wrap; while the remaining Bellas appear just to utter a few lines about themselves. Chloe (Brittany Snow) falls for a soldier nicknamed Chicago (Matt Lanter), while Theo (Guy Burnet), a music executive, looks to move in on a single and unemployed Beca. Both Chicago and Theo are boring and forgettable – their lack of charm from the outset is further proof Pitch 3 is fresh out of ideas. Sie, Cannon and White completely cut out Jesse (Skylar Astin) and Bumper (Adam DeVine) and refuse to address Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) and Benji’s (Ben Platt) budding romance in Pitch 2 – but I guess that’s okay since Emily is relegated to a couple of lines and served as the butt Fat Amy’s jokes and ire.

The most interesting aspect is the fact that John Lithgow was brought in to play Fat Amy’s estranged father. He, of course, is a brilliant actor who could’ve helped in the charm department, but Lithgow was terribly misused, sporting an over-the-top Australian accent and a feeble sinister disposition.

Using the USO angle was actually a highlight – performing for our troops is a great honor, and one of many ways to recognize and thank them for their service. But the fictional bands which served as the Bellas’ competition are terrible. There’s a country-rock band (meh) and a hip-hop duo (meh meh), but the Bellas’ chief rival is an all-female rock band named Evermoist. Yes, that’s their name – it’s unfunny the first time you hear it, yet it’s uttered multiple times in hopes it’ll pick up some funny momentum (it doesn’t).

Despite being an unsurprisingly terrible sendoff, I found myself liking this more than Pitch 2. This doesn’t mean it’s better than the second feature, but applying sentiment somehow gives it the tiniest of passes. I guess taking the “huge” risk of adding action (Fat Amy turns into the Sammo Hung of Aussies and girls) made an impression since it’s definitely not something one would expect here. But it’s a clear substitute for the lack of original ideas, which means it never would’ve worked – and it didn’t.

What would’ve worked is the family dynamic which has built up over the years. The Bellas are a family, and it served Beca’s storyline well, but that was only surface deep and it made way for Fat Amy’s story.

I don’t have any idea how things could’ve been properly wrapped up, and Cannon (who wrote all three Pitch Perfect films) didn’t, either. Knowing that, this third entry should’ve never happened. For Pitch Perfect fans, this is an aca-disappointing final chapter, and for viewers in general it’s simply a bad movie. At least Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins are still around. They're still hilarious and are one aspect which has been consistent throughout.

2 stars out of 5

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