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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Pitch Perfect 3, review: Fat Amy’s tall father and DJ Khaled’s Bella a capella

Pitch Perfect 3, review: Fat Amy’s tall father and DJ Khaled’s Bella a capella

Wrapping-up the three-part series, the third instalment queers the pitch and is not perfect by a long mile. Some tweens have enjoyed their 93 minutes at the cinema-house, judging by the box-office collections, and so be it. More discerning cine-goers might have a flippant time at best, watching some caustic exchanges, routine choreography and songs that don’t stay with you too long.

Three years after the events of Pitch Perfect 2, the Bellas have graduated college, but have jobs which they all hate. Beca is a music producer forced to put-up with the quirks of a singer who thinks he is much better than he actually is. Desperate to see each other again, to sing once more, Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Aubrey (Anna Camp), Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), Cynthia (Ester Dean), Florencia (Chrissie Fit), Jessica (Kelley Jakle), Ashley (Shelley Regner), and Stacie (Alexis Knapp) are all thrilled to learn that Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), now a senior at Barden and leader of the Bellas, has invited the Bellas to reunite at an event in an aquarium, to sing with each other once more. Upon arriving at the reunion they are told that the reunion wasn't for the Bellas to sing together, but to watch Emily sing with the new Bellas.

Aubrey convinces them to join a USO (“The USO has provided help to over 10 million military service members and their families. Wherever and whenever they go, the USO will be there”--from the USO website) tour to Spain performance, courtesy her Army-officer father. If they win the competition, they get to open for DJ Khaled (the man himself!). After some consideration, they decide to go, expect Stacie, who cannot travel, being eight months pregnant. In Spain, they face other groups that use both instruments and voices, while they are just an a capella group. (Grammarist definition of a capella: In Italian, the phrase a cappella means, literally, ‘in the manner of chapel’. Whoever coined the phrase presumably attended the type of church service in which people sing without musical accompaniment. In any case, without musical accompaniment is the primary definition of this loan phrase in English. It’s mainly an adjective and an adverb, but it also functions as a noun e.g., she sang an a capella).

When the band Evermoist (fodder for Amy to make a quip on the name), lead by their leader Calamity (Ruby Rose), begin to mock and belittle the Bellas, the competition is challenged to a ‘riff-off’ by the Bellas, who leave defeated when the other groups compete using their musical instruments. The Bellas are taken to a fancy hotel in Spain, where Chloe begins to develop a relationship with army-man/escort named Chicago, and Fat Amy finds an old stuffed bunny sitting in her bed, which she recognises as an old toy she used to hold when she was very little, as her estranged criminal father Fergus (John Lithgow) sang her to sleep every night. She is deeply concerned with the prospect of his return.

Pitch Perfect, the 2012 comedy about a group of misfit college women who come together in the name of instrument-free crooning, became something of a cult flick with tweens (and their boyfriends), and writer Kay Cannon was asked to write a sequel. In PP2 (2015), which was bigger and broader–Kendrick and her team, The Barden Bellas, compete on an international level. Cut to Picture Perfect 3.

Cannon got a theater degree in college and then pursued a Masters in education. It was through Jason Sudeikis (her husband; they have since divorced) she met and became friends with Tina Fey. Actress/film-maker Elizabeth Banks, called Cannon up and said there was a book called Pitch Perfect: The Quest for A Capella Glory by Mickey Rapkin that could serve as her source material. And that set the ball rolling. PP3 is co-written by writer-director Mike White (Brad’s Status, Year of the Dog, Orange County, The Good Girl), a Reverend’s son who makes a living out of penning irreverent cinema. Dialogue comes up with play on the name Evermoist and Amy’s self-deprecating digs at her name: Fat Amy Winehouse, Fat Amy Grant, Fat Amy Adams. At one point in the film, after the Bellas are introduced to the Evermoist group of badass female rockers, named ‘Calamity’, ‘Serenity’, ‘Veracity’, and Charity, Amy quips, "If I joined your group, I could be Obesity."

Choreographer-turned director Trish Sie (The Future, God Bless America, Step Up: All In) relies heavily on two components to sustain the narrative: Fat Amy’s acid, x-rated tongue, and her action hero act towards the end, to add momentum to a tepid tale that only offers the basics of story-telling, and a sub-plot of a documentary-maker duo that are out to ridicule the Bellas but end up loving them, and falling in love with each other. Moreover, Sie crowds the screen with some 20 characters, making it really difficult for anybody but hard-core Pitch loyalists to keep track of who’s who. Obviously, in such an overcrowding of faces and names, two distinctive ‘physicalities’ are easy to stick to: the oversize Amy and her cherubic faced 1.94m tall father, Fergus.

Wait a minute! It’s almost time for big battle: Fergus and his henchmen v/s the martial art exponent and nunchuck/nunchaku master, Fat Amy, on a yacht, all at sea. And watch out, she is going to use her killer punch on her former instructor-turned foe, and it is called the ‘nipple gripple’ (alternate spelling ‘nipple grapple’). All the chopper-wielding cook has to do is unbutton his (repeat, his) shirt, and all hell will break loose.

Here’s the cast:

·        Anna Kendrick as Beca Mitchell,

·        Rebel Wilson as Australian Patricia "Fat Amy" Hobart,

·        Brittany Snow as Chloe Beale,

·        Anna Camp as Aubrey Posen,

·        Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Junk,

·        Hana Mae Lee as Lilly Onakuramara, the Japanese member who makes musical sounds with her mouth but hardly speaks,

·        Ester Dean as Cynthia-Rose Adams, a lesbian,

·        Chrissie Fit as Florencia "Flo" Fuentes, from Guatemala,

·        Kelley Jakle as Jessica Smith,

·        Shelley Regner as Ashley Jones,

·        Alexis Knapp as Stacie Conrad,

·        John Michael Higgins as John Smith, an a cappella commentator making an insulting documentary about The Bellas,

·        Elizabeth Banks as Gail-Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberger, the joint commentator making the insulting documentary about The Bellas,

·        John Lithgow as Fergus Hobart, Fat Amy's estranged criminal father, who can hold a Tune,

·        Matt Lanter as Chicago Walp, an over-confident U.S. soldier guiding the Bellas, during their European tour, one of Chloe's love interests,

·        Guy Burnett as Theo, DJ Khaled's music producer who has an eye on Beca,

·        DJ Khaled (age 42, real name Khaled Mohammed Khaled; formerly known as ‘Arab Attack’, who dropped the second half of his name showing sensitivity to the 9/11attack victims) as himself, saying the most predictable lines,

·        Ruby Rose, Andy Allo, Venzella Joy Williams, and Hannah Fairlight as Calamity, Serenity, Charity, and Veracity, respectively, mean machine members of the band Evermoist,

·        Troy Ian Hall as Zeke, a U.S. soldier, partners with Chicago,

·        Michael Rose as Aubrey's father, who appears briefly at the end credits.

Whatever happened to the boy-friends? Director Sie has clarified that Bumper Allen (Adam Devine), Benji Applebaum (Ben Platt) and Jesse Swanson (Skylar Astin) were all cut from the third instalment, despite having relatively prominent roles as boyfriends to the Barden Bellas in the first two films. The script had already cut the characters before she came onboard, and that Platt was busy on Broadway.

If you are into getting ‘tarty’ on the night of your act’s kill performance, this is the time. Get Picture Perfect, and look into the mirror at least thrice. Don’t miss the mid-credits, though. A word about the certification. India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has muted some obscenities and let a few slip through. The certificate reads UA (Parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years. Films with the U/A certification can contain moderate adult themes that are not strong in nature and can be watched by a child under parental guidance. These films can contain some strong violence, moderate sex (without any traces of nudity or sexual detail), frightening scenes and muted abusive and filthy language). We do not know what was cut but we can make out the mutings almost always. There is so much sex oozing that some of it would have to be shot. We won’t see it in India though.

Goodbye Bellas, Goodbye PP franchise. We had some good laughs while it lasted.

Rating: **


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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