It’s always funny to be reminded of my own cinematic blind spots. When Pitch Perfect 2 came out in 2015 and it sold out every show and horrifying crowds of overzealous and way too confident people were flooding the lobby of the theater singing a cappella showtuned versions of pop songs, I truly had no idea what to make of it. I had never even heard of Pitch Perfect, so the nightmare scenario of these people taking over my theater and making fun of me for not knowing something about movies was like a bullet to the head. When it was explained to me in painful detail that this was some sanitized and studio-approved version of “girl power,” I just about went through the roof. Asking these people to go home and rent Mädchen in Uniform instead was just not going to fly.
So now that I’ve seen Pitch Perfect 3, I think I understand the point of all this (finally). These movies are a reason to go out every few years and watch Rebel Wilson get to do something interesting. And they can pile on the guest star cameo turns from people like John Lithgow, who is at the stage of his career where he’s introduced making a goofy face, the audience cracks up, and he gets paid. That he puts on a bad Australian accent is, shockingly, almost beside the point. He doesn’t care. Why should he care? He’s already rich and famous. This is all meaningless to him. The other side of that coin is that it’s a way for Petra Haden to get some royalties since her version of the Universal Logo Theme Music opens the film. She’s great. She deserves to be more famous than she is. So, there’s that.
What I can say for the film itself is that it actually does a great job of never making me feel like there’s some huge backstory I’m missing out on. All necessary character business and overarching plot are pieced out by this weirdly efficient system of scenes and sequences that start with “we can’t do what we did last time …” or “wow, has it really been two years since all that other stuff happened?” And it gets all of this out of the way and pretty briskly gets down to the nuts and bolts of its own point, which has something to do with a USO tour, all of our heroes having fallen on hard times, and the plot contrivance that there are people out there who genuinely love bluegrass and pop metal and a cappella versions of Britney Spears songs from 15 years ago all mashed up and plopped into a movie about friendship and togetherness and something or other like that. And also Rebel Wilson beating the goddam daylights out of a boat full of random evil henchmen.
Look, the holidays are stressful enough. Maybe this is the palate cleanser audiences need right now before they’re forced to start thinking about what on Earth is going on inside P.T. Anderson’s or Spielberg’s heads. People want to go cheer for a bunch of bad Cranberries covers? Be my guest. There are worse ways to spend two hours in a dark theater not talking to your family.