I believe this to be true. I believe you could give any honors-level high school Creative Writing class in America a week, and the students could come up with a half-dozen better story ideas for “Pitch Perfect 3” than this incomprehensibly stupid, jarringly uneven, astonishingly unfunny and just plain lazy dead fish of a three-quel.
You think I’m kidding? Okay, let’s run these “PP3” story arcs up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes.
• A few years after leaving Barden University, the women of the a cappella group known as the Bellas have scattered to the winds and are floundering personally and professionally — so they leap at the chance to join an overseas USO tour, during which they will compete against a country & western group called Saddle Up; a clownish DJ named DragonNuts, and a sneering, all-female rock band called Evermoist.
That’s right. Saddle Up, DragonNuts and Evermoist. Weren’t those all porn star names in the 1980s?
• The winner of this bizarre competition will become the opening act for DJ Khaled, who is played by DJ Khaled, who really isn’t all that great playing DJ Khaled.
Now, I realize DJ Khaled is a big deal producer and record label executive and personality and such, but in the world of this film, his name is spoken with such reverence and he is surrounded by so much adoration, it’s as if he’s Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson and Jay Z all rolled into one.
DJ Khaled’s publicist couldn’t have written a more worshipful story line for DJ Khaled.
• As if to ensure “Daddy’s Home 2” wouldn’t mark the low point of his IMDB resume, the great John Lithgow delivers arguably the worst performance of his career as the long-absentee father of Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson).
It turns out Daddy is a supposed criminal mastermind who kidnaps the Bellas and threatens to murder them if Fat Amy doesn’t — oh, it doesn’t really matter what Pops wants Fat Amy to do. Suffice to say it makes no sense, not even within the cuckoo context of this movie.
• Lithgow drifts in and out of arguably the worst Australian accent I’ve ever heard from an American actor. It’s maybe even the worst Australian accent I’ve heard from any American, ever. That guy in your workplace who has taken a couple of improv classes and thinks he’s killing it on Twitter? He could do a better Australian accent.
• The Bellas are broke and they haven’t performed together in a couple of years, but when they’re asked to join the USO tour, they magically come up with a series of form-fitting costumes and they deliver a number of intricately choreographed a cappella covers of such tunes as Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and George Michael’s “Freedom.”
• About that USO tour: Nobody seems to question why or how the Bellas (and the other struggling music groups) are staying in four-star hotels. They just … are.
• Oh, and if there’s a lavish hotel suite party in which a huge colony of bees is locked in a glass tank (don’t ask), what do you think the odds are someone will accidentally shatter that tank?
Of course, we’re not expecting gritty realism from a “Pitch Perfect” movie, but most episodes of “Glee” were grounded in a more believable universe than this lightweight tripe.
The Bellas have always been more about caricature than character, with each of the young women one primary personality trait or back story — with the exception of Anna Kendrick’s earnest and smart and talented Beca. We liked Beca. She actually seemed like a real person, with real ambitions and real insecurities and real emotions.
But I’m not sure even Anna Kendrick cares about Beca any more. Kendrick is one of the most energetic and lively actors around, but she comes across as having nearly zero investment in the character this time. I swear there were times when it looked as she might nod off or at least check her phone to see if her agent had found her any interesting indie-film roles.
Sure, it’s still good cheesy white-bread fun when Beca and the Bellas do their vocal-fry renditions of pop and hip-hop hits, shimmying and grinding with the PG-13 suggestiveness of a group that went fairly deep on “America’s Got Talent” before getting the heave-ho.
But as a whole, “Pitch Perfect 3” feels like an encore nobody asked for.
Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Trish Sie and written by Kay Cannon and Mike White. Rated PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, language and some action). Running time: 93 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.