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Pitch Perfect 3 (and Target Exclusive Bonus Disc)
When Pitch Perfect first harmonized its way into audiences' hearts as a low-budget platform release in 2012, few could've forseen it as the juggernaut it would become: the first sequel went on to become the highest-grossing musical comedy of all time, and the franchise helped propel Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson to leading-lady status (Kendrick even got a #1 single out of it, "Cups"). The second film marked comedy superstar Elizabeth Banks' feature directorial debut, and the entire franchise was developed by her company Brownstone. Perhaps it's these sorts of accolades that contributed to a largely negative critical reception for Pitch Perfect 3, a funny and mostly sastifying send-off to a series of infectiously goofy movies about a relatively obscure musical genre. It is neither the best or worst entry in the franchise, landing solidly in the middle of a trio of films with a high batting average for laughs and catchy reformatted pop music.
Comedy sequels are always a gamble, and Pitch Perfect 2 struggled to break itself out of the formula established by the original even as it developed its characters in interesting ways, transforming Beca's DJ dream into something more substantial, introducing Emily and her dreams of writing original songs, and having Amy dive into a sincerely sweet relationship with Adam DeVine's goofy Bumper (I myself was harsh on the film when it was new; repeat viewings have warmed me up to it). Pitch Perfect 2 also found the lead characters graduating, jumping straight to what might've felt like a natural trilogy-capper. Rather than hit those beats a third time, 3 lampshades the competition angle with a few jokes, and transforms the series into an action movie instead, with an explosive and mysterious opening sequence set to Britney Spears' "Toxic." Some fans may feel this is over-the-top (and they may also be sad to see boyfriends Jesse, Bumper and Benji left behind), but director Trish Sie pulls the sequence off with a Fast & Furious slickness and tongue firmly in cheek.
Compared to the "underdog sports" formula that provided a backbone for the previous two films, 3 has a loose quality, drifting in and out of a semi-serious battle of the bands competing to open for DJ Khaled (playing himself, to amusing effect), with the Bellas' most serious rival being an all-woman rock group with the alarming name "Evermoist." Instead, the focus is on the appearance of Fergus, who is seeking to reconnect with Amy after years of neglect and a criminal history as a conniving gangster. It'd be fair to fault the film for a lack of dramatic urgency, but the film (co-written by series creator Kay Cannon and School of Rock's Mike White) is consistently funny, thanks to a cast who have fine-tuned their chemistry, and find the opportunities to land their moments (even if Wilson steals the show both as ad-libber and action hero). Although the movie is breezy and light, the movie's story arcs for the characters are generally successful, even if 2 and 3 have similar beats about moving onto the next step.
That said, there are a few mild disappointments on deck. While the Bellas' music is good, including lively a cappella covers of "I Don't Like It, I Love It," and "Cheap Thrills," the blended remix nature of the first two films is mostly tossed aside. The characters of John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Banks) feel like dead weight this time around, scoring a few laughs but registering as the most perfunctory thing in the movie, with their "d-aca-mentary" never amounting to more than exposition. It's also the shortest of the three movies, with the movie feeling like a significant chunk of material was aggressively streamlined into a 90-minute finished product. The result could be called fluff, or worse, insubstantial, but even at their silliest, the Pitch Perfect movies were a rare female-driven comedy franchise that stuck to its own sensibilities and ended on its own terms -- that's something worth singing about.
Pitch Perfect 3 arrives on Blu-ray with its traditional group poster shot intact, although faces look a bit waxy. The art has also been given a full-color upgrade over the black-and-white poster version, complete with a bright yellow backdrop and pink banner advertising new musical numbers. The two-disc release comes housed in a Viva Elite Blu-ray case holding the Blu-ray and DVD copy, and there are two inserts, one with a MoviesAnywhere Digital Copy, and the other with a code for a free bonus digital movie reward through Universal. There is also an embossed slipcover featuring identical artwork.
The Video and Audio
As one would expect from a 2018 release of a 2017 film from a major studio, Pitch Perfect 3 looks and sounds great on Blu-ray. Presented in 1.85:1 1080p AVC, colors appear bright and vivid, detail is crisp, depth is impressive, and black levels are enicely balanced. No banding or artifacting visible. Sound is a DTS-X Master Audio track that I don't have the equipment to fully experience, but still comes off as stunning over 5.1 equipment with incredibly immersive mixing during the musical numbers that really adds to the experience with directional effects and a clarity that allows the viewer to hear each note from each performer with a stunning clarity. The picture is immaculate, but it's no surprise that the audio is the real winner with a movie like this. French DTS 5.1 and Spanish DTS-HD High Resolution tracks are also included, as are English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing, and French and Spanish subtitles. Oddly enough, a Descriptive Audio track is only available on the included DVD.
As with previous Pitch Perfect Blu-rays, the Pitch Perfect 3 disc is stacked with extras. Unfortunately, the content itself is a little on the underwhelming side.
First up are some additional music performances. Those expecting to see more of the Bellas will likely be somewhat underwhelmed, as "New Musical Performances" includes a "Fat Amy and Fergus Casino Duet" and a Bellas Lullaby - "See You Smile" (combined running time 4:24), but the Extended Musical Performances only includes the competition, with Evermoist's "When a Heart Breaks," "You Got It" by Young Sparrow and DJ Dragon Nutz, and Saddle Up's "Exes and Ohs (combined running time 8:50). The first two segments are really deleted scenes -- neither feels good enough to make the movie, but fans will probably appreciate both, especially the second one, which adds a bit more to Emily's arc. The extended numbers are all from the first USO show, with the exception of Saddle Up's, which is a bit more of a montage.
If there's a major disappointment here, it's that the disc only contains a single true deleted scene, despite at least a couple of them appearing in the featurettes and trailers. Worse, "Aubrey at Amy's Hotel Room Door" (1:01) is extremely short, and not all that interesting or funny. The additional footage wraps up with a fine gag reel (3:22).
The bulk of the video extras are made up of multiple featurettes. "Competition Crescendo" (6:37) is about the bands and music, and features some fun behind-the-scenes footage. "A Cappella Action" (3:15) is a quick look at the yacht sequence, although I suspect what people will be expecting from the clip is more what "Don't Mess With Rebel" (4:27) delivers, showing Wilson working on her action choreography. "The Women of Pitch Perfect 3" (4:21) looks in front of and behind the camera at the ladies who worked on bringing the series to life. Some self-explanatory individual character pieces follow: "The Headliner: DJ Khaled" (3:01), "The Final Note: John and Gail" (2:22), and "Just Because He's a Bad Guy... (1:54). In tandem with "A Capella Action," "Just Because He's Bad Guy" contains little snippets of footage deleted from Fergus' story, which may not have worked in the film but is a shame at the very least because Lithgow seems so excited about it. "The Final Performance" (4:30) adds a bit of emotion into the mix, and the featurettes conclude with "Hollywood of the South" (2:36), covering filming the entire movie in Atlanta. The final video extra is a music video for a mashup of "Freedom '90 / Cups," performed by the cast and musicians from "The Voice."
At the bottom of the extras, and overlooked by the Blu-ray press release, are two audio commentaries, by director Trish Sie, and by producers Max Handelman and Paul Brooks. It's disappointing that Elizabeth Banks was unavailable (Handelman and Brooks lament that she had the flu when they recorded), having appeared on the commentary for the first two. The commentaries are a mixed bag, filling the time with basic insights onto the intent behind the story and character arcs and the various way the film evolved through editing and development, but both are weighed down a bit by time spent explaining what the audience can already see happening on-screen, and it feels as if the same basic information could've been conveyed, and perhaps with a bit more spark, as a single track with all three participants. (Sie also references at least one more brief scene that got cut from the film and is conspicuously absent from the disc -- a bit more of the movie's moment for Beca/Chloe "shippers" when the two are trying to locate DJ Khaled's hotel room, while Handelman and Brooks talk about a number of individual jokes in non-specific detail, including material in Beca and Fat Amy's apartment and other snippets throughout the film that hit the cutting room floor.)
Trailers for "The Bold Type," "The Voice," Logan Lucky, The Breadwinner, "Good Girls," and Honey: Rise Up and Dance play before the main menu. Disappointingly, no theatrical trailers for Pitch Perfect 3 are included.
UPDATE (3/21/2017): Those who purchase the Blu-ray at Target will get an exclusive bonus disc with over 30 minutes of additional extras. Strangely, the content here is perhaps better than the content on the disc proper, although disappointingly, deleted scenes still remain MIA.
First up is the most substantial extra, "Bellas Through the Years", an 8-part featurette (total running time 17:29) which profiles Beca, Fat Amy, Chloe, Aubrey, Emily, Cynthia Rose, Lilly, and Flo with little looks back at their characters through footage and interviews, both from Pitch Perfect 3 but also occasionally from interviews from the other two films. Fluffy, but fun. "A Cappella Aquatica" (1:54) is brief but features some of the best B-roll from any of the extras, showing the cast interacting with the animals at the aquarium from the beginning of the film. "A-ca Boot Camp: Part 3" (5:18) is the best of the featurettes on either the main Blu-ray or this bonus disc, showing the women working out the choreography with AJ "Aakomon" Jones (it's kind of shame the movie is edited so briskly; it feels as if the choreography doesn't quite get highlighted in the movie the way it ought to). "Bellas Find Love" (3:38) is a brief look at the film's three (2.5?) romances. Finally, "To the USO We Go" (5:42) is a look at the movie's premise and how the military helped the production out with access and resources, before shifting into a bit of costume design. This is another great featurette, both because it has some fun footage of Kendrick goofing off with costume designer Salvador Perez Jr., but also because it contains a significant amount of B-roll of the movie's two most conspicuously missing deleted sequences: the gang messing around on a training camp (some of which is seen during the montage in the credits, including Aubrey doing one-handed push-ups and Amy being attacked by dogs), and some sort of musical number taking place inside a large briefing room.
Again, fans are left to wonder where those sequences went -- perhaps held back for some future deluxe trilogy box set offering the one extra that any fan would cough up again for: cast commentaries on all three movies? -- but for those who haven't already made their purchase, the Target disc is worth picking up over the regular edition.
Pitch Perfect 3 isn't, er, perfect, but it hits enough high notes for this fan to improve on the second movie. The extras are more plentiful than compelling, but fans shouldn't hesistate to pick this disc up. Recommended.
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