All things must come to an aca-end. And so after five years, three outings, and an uncountable number of pitch puns, the house that multipart harmonies built is signing off — and if its swan song sometimes feels more like a wild goose chase, plotwise (or maybe a day-drunk penguin), the sheer nutty charisma of its sprawling cast still carries the series out on a pretty sweet high note.

As the movie opens, our heroines the Bellas have left the warm cocoon of college for the cold hard slap of adulthood, and life post-capella is uniformly grim: Beca (Anna Kendrick) has a thankless job producing tracks for a white rapper so dim he makes Vanilla Ice sound like Sondheim; Chloe (Brittany Snow) spends most of her days as a vet tech with her hands up the backsides of gastrically distressed farm animals; Cynthia (Ester Dean) can’t stop flunking out of flight school; and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), well… she’s great actually, but happy oblivion was always her M.O. So when their onetime leader Aubrey (Anna Camp) floats the idea of reuniting to performing for troops overseas, the group goes all in, packing up their tightest pants and soprano parts and flying straight to Spain for the first gig.

But it wouldn’t be a Perfect storyline, of course, without some high-Pitched bitchery, or at least a decent rival. And the group finds more than one in the other artists on the tour — including a vampish all-girl rock band called Extra Moist and fronted by the smug, whippet-thin vixen Calamity (Orange Is the New Black’s Ruby Rose). Aside from entertaining men in uniform, they’ll also be competing for the attention of the tour’s A-list headliner DJ Khaled (playing an air-quotes version of himself). There’s also a middle-aged mystery man (John Lithgow, delightfully slumming) who seems to keep showing up wherever the Bellas are, well past the point of coincidence.

Mostly this is all just pretext for dreamy postcard shots of Europe, a metric ton of slapstick, and as many highly specific vocal riff-offs as one empty airplane hangar can handle. (“Artists You Didn’t Know Were Jewish — go!”). Director Trish Sie (Step Up All In) doesn’t bring it together quite as smartly as Elizabeth Banks did on the last outing; she feels more like a babysitter than a boss. (Though it’s fun to see Banks onscreen again at least, as the batty commentator Gail). At a scant 93 minutes, PP3 is really more like an extended short than a movie anyway; one last daffy victory lap for the ladies who taught us how far friendship — and a franchise — can carry itself on hard work, matching halter tops, and a whole lot of mouth music. B

Pitch Perfect 3
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