The Bellas are back by popular demand, but did the third installation of the Pitch Perfect franchise live up to the hype?
When it was revealed in the EAST VILLAGE. office that our MD, Tara, had never seen any of the Pitch Perfect films, the rest of the team were rightfully shocked and appalled. The enormous hype that has surrounded the franchise ever since the launch of the first movie back in 2012 has been hard to miss. The first movie was dubbed ‘Hollywood’s surprising success story’, which makes sense, as a movie about a competitive acapella group seems pretty niche… but put it this way: it was a refreshing comedy full of quick-wit, genuine talent, adored cast members, and of course, aca-mazing puns, so surely it was guaranteed to be a hit. The aca-doration (please don’t hold that one against me) of the Barden Bellas and their plight in the world of acapella was just as strong upon the release of Pitch Perfect 2 in 2015. Sequels can be hit (Toy Story 2…) or miss (Sex and the City 2…) but as sequels go, it was brilliant in the eyes of both audience and critics alike, scoring a respectable 65% on Rotten Tomatoes’ ‘Tomatometer’- not too much of a drop from the first movie’s score of 80%.
The third film probably wouldn’t work as a standalone movie, or even for people who have only seen the first two films once or twice. There are a LOT of ‘inside jokes’- references to the previous two films that work well for mega fans, but would fall flat on a new audience. I mean, I went to see it with my friend’s family, and his nan slept soundly the whole way through… but she hadn’t seen the first two, so I can’t say that’s a fair review. Inside jokes aren’t necessarily a bad thing, though. With the franchise having developed a sort of ‘cult-following,’ it is clear that the producers know exactly who their audience is, and so the inclusion of so many references to the earlier films feels like a nod to fans who have stayed loyal to the Pitch Perfect hype from the start.
The fact that the film strives to appeal to current fans of the franchise is, I hate to say, sometimes to the detriment of plot. The storyline does stray from every expectation, and in some cases, this is really refreshing. For example, Beca has a potential love interest throughout the movie, or should I say, the guy is interested in Beca, however this doesn’t materialise in the end. Anna Kendrick (who plays Beca) actually had some say in this plot, as she claims the pairing of Beca and Theo was ‘originally was written as a romantic interest. I pushed back pretty hard on that because I thought it was a little problematic that a guy was coming into [Beca’s] life and being the more active character.’ This is really quite groundbreaking for its genre, as romantic interests are often ‘shoehorned’ into a plot, with no real authenticity, and whilst Beca managed to escape this, her fellow Bella, Chloe, fell victim to a romance storyline which had no basis aside from some funny, yet cringe worthy, flirting earlier on in the movie. This rendered the kiss scene at the end very much out of place, although it did provide more significance to Beca’s refusal of Theo in the same scene.
What the Pitch Perfect franchise is perhaps most successful at is depicting relatable, ‘ride or die’ style female friendships, something which, even in 2018, is often pushed aside to allow room for romantic interest- I mean, it passes the Bechdel test ten times over. It’s also no secret that the cast members are all very close, as this comes across in interviews and TV appearances, so as we see the characters talk about themselves as a ‘little family’, it seems that they might not even be acting.
I’m not going to lie and say I loved the film, but I did laugh out loud many times, mainly because of the sheer ridiculousness of the plot. It’s a great one to see with your closest pals, because it does nothing if not big-up the importance of female friendships and having each others’ backs. So, if you’re looking for a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s definitely the film for you. If you’re looking for serious, groundbreaking storytelling, well… let’s be honest, you were probably in the wrong cinema screen to begin with.