Pitch Perfect 3: Third Installment an Aca-tastrophe Worth Seeing

2 out of 5 stars (has some good moments, but is overall bad)

Pitch Perfect 3 Poster
Image from https://www.themoviedb.org/

Pitch Perfect 3 is the third installment in the musical comedy series about  a cappella and  the bonds of sisterhood.  If you enjoyed the other two and want one last hurrah with the Bellas, then you should embrace your inner completionist and seek this out.  And, even if you’ve never cared for this series, I would still recommend it purely to watch the film morph from a generic comedy into a ridiculous action film.  No I’m not kidding.

This film sees the Bellas reunite post-graduation to take part in an international USO tour and encountering rival groups Evermoist (yes you read that right) and other unimportant bands, who all use actual instruments!  The goal: to  to impress and open for DJ Khaled (playing himself).  However, things get complicated with the intro of Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) criminal father (John Lithgow sporting a horrid Aussie accent), who essentially forces the movie into a bizarre (yet still enjoyable) direction.  John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks also appear as the sexist announcers, this time following the Bellas around for a documentary.  Because of course they are.

This is a bad movie.  Most of the musical numbers feel forced and aren’t memorable like previous entries.  The comedy is self-mocking, almost as if the film was originally supposed to satirize the formula before being overhauled, and the final 3rd becomes a Rebel Wilson Action Movie.  I don’t know who made this decision, but I would like to personally thank them for doing so.

Pitch Perfect 3 is both a beautiful aca-tastrophe and a passable swan song to fans of the franchise.  The musical sequences should get the toes tapping, but the plot and characters are hilariously thin and the final act was clearly rewritten to get more buts in seats.  It’s time to close the aca-curtains on this series, while it still has a shred of dignity left.

Rated PG-13 for Crude And Sexual Content, Language, And Some Action

New “Annie” Missed Opportunity

2 out of 5 stars (has some good moments but is overall bad)

In today’s world, remakes, or “reimaginings” as they are now called, are inevitable.  The new Hollywood mindset seems to be that “if it made money 20 or 30 years ago, it will make money now.  Just “update” it a little, spend lots of money on ads, and it will sell tickets”.  I am both for and against remakes, as they can do two things: Improve the original (This summer’s Godzilla, for example) or spit on the memory of a great classic (This year’s Robocop).

I like remakes that bring something new to the table, or if I don’t like the original, I’m very open to a reinterpretation of it.  That was the case with “Annie”, the Broadway classic about a little orphan girl who is adopted by a wealthy man, thus escaping the clutches of the evil woman who runs her foster home.  I have seen the Annie from 1982 at various ages throughout my life, hoping that I would somehow get what everybody likes about it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t, so when the trailers for this remake came out, I was extremely excited.  Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, and Cameron Diaz were in major roles, and director of the film was Will Gluck, who brought us the fun and chirpy teen comedy Easy A, which I love.  Everything was in place for this to be a good remake.  So what happened?

The plot has some modifications, so I’ll go over it.  Cell phone magnate Will Stacks (Foxx, whose talent is totally underused both as an actor and a singer/dancer) is running for mayor of New York.  Unfortunately, his poll numbers are dismal, but he has the help of his perky assistant Grace (Byrne) to keep him going.  He also has the conniving Guy (Bobby Cannavale) who is so easy to spot as a secondary antagonist that he should be working for Dr. Evil.  Also, Stacks isn’t much of a people person, so much so that he spits out food from the homeless shelter (one of the films’ funny scenes).  What a great politician he’ll make.

Stacks’ luck changes when he saves Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) from an oncoming truck.  It turns out that Annie is a foster kid living in Harlem under the comedically awful care of Miss Hannigan (Diaz overacting so high that the heavens can hear her).  At the advice of his assistants, Stacks decides to spend more time with Annie to help increase his numbers, an affair that ends in a horrible ending number on a New York pier with helicopters, cops, and Hannigan shenanigans.

Many things are changed from the original story, and I like some of them.  Setting it in modern times begins well, but becomes extremely underwhelming at the climax.  Diaz seems to be having loads of fun hamming it up, and Byrne provides her usual sarcastic wit, but Foxx looks absolutely embarrassed, especially in the ending scene.  I’ve seen Jamie Foxx give it his all before: Django Unchained, Collateral, and even The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (which I really liked) show Foxx giving everything he’s got, and he’s just plain lazy here.  Foxx does maintain his likability through this, so I’ll give him credit for that.

The musical numbers, while first bearable, become more endless than in Across the Universe (a musical romantic drama that had at least 20 more than this).  The timeless songs (“Hard Knock Life,” “Sun will come Out Tomorrow”, etc.) are decent-sounding, but the choreography is boring and waaaay too spontaneous.  The later numbers (one of which has been shockingly nominated for best original song at the Golden Globes) is head-bangingly annoying and sentimental, and it wasn’t even in the original.  There is a quote from The Birdcage from 1996 that sums up the new songs: “Subtract, don’t add”.  The screenwriters omitted some songs to go along with the period, but then added some that are extremely out of place.  One with Guy and Hannigan is particularly horrid, and could have been edited out with nothing being lost.  The dubbing (making sure the lyrics match with the actor’s mouths) is also jarringly off, leading one to believe that nobody looked at it in editing before they wrapped up.  The editing and camerawork are also quite bad in the musical numbers, classic or not.  John Huston was criticized for his directing of the version from 1982, and I think he was a bad choice.  However, Will Gluck proves to be an extremely bad choice for this film, serving as both director and co-screenwriter.  The dramatic moments are cloying, and I can not emphasize enough how badly the musical numbers are shot.

As for character chemistry, the actors work fine together.  Wallis, Foxx, and Byrne are good, as are Wallis and Diaz.  Diaz and Byrne don’t have but a minute of time together, and it feels awkward, as if the actresses are meeting each other for the first time, even though the characters are.  Character development is passable, with Hannigan having more than usual, and one embarrassingly squeezed in scene with Stacks and Annie in the middle of the film.  Annie is positive throughout, which is at first cute, but becomes a little overbearing as the film wears on, and on, and on.

The film has funny moments though.  I laughed at most of the jokes, but I had turned off my critical mind for a majority of the film.  It was only after the film had ended that I realized how bad it was.

I won’t harp on “edgy” content as I usually do here, but parents should know that there is some profanity and a few grown-up jokes, two of which should not be there at all.  Guy says he helped Kim Jong Ill get into power, a line that should have been deleted due to the recent Sony hack and Sony releasing this film.  I laughed, but jokes about dictators should not be in kids’ films.  Hurricane Sandy is also made light of, something that the persons involved aren’t ready for yet, and neither was I.

The sad thing is that this film is a missed opportunity.  This wasn’t going to be a classic, but it could have been good.  The people involved are capable of making good movies; it’s just too bad that they all had to be in this one together.

Rated PG for Some Mild Language and Rude Humor

If you wish to see a good family film this Christmas, see Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.  It is the third and final installment in the Night at the Museum trilogy.

“High School Musical” Graduates to the Big Screen

3 out of 5 stars (average)

High School Musical 3: Senior Year poster
Image from http://www.moviepostershop.com/

Note: Upon rewatching this film, I find it absolutely shocking that I once enjoyed it.  The acting and writing are laughable, (the former especially for Vanessa Hudgens) the music numbers, while well-produced, took me out of the films’ reality, and the self-congratulatory ending is ludicrous.  I would give it 2 out of 5 stars today (has some good moments, but is overall bad).  Despite that, please enjoy this review from my younger, less-experienced self.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, this is the third installment of a big musical franchise about diversity and the power of choices, all set to music.

Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) is East High’s basketball champion for the Wildcats team. He’s got his teammates like Chad (Corbin Bleu) and the support of his girlfriend Gabriella Montez, East High’s genius-hottie who is played by Vanessa  Hudgens. What could be better? But this is Senior Year and that means Troy, Gabriella, Chad and everyone else has to think about where they want to go to college. Troy’s father has already picked out a college for him; his alma mater the University of Albuquerque. Gabriella might go to Stanford University, very far away from Troy.

The new school year starts, and drama teacher Mrs. Darbus (Alyson Reed) announces that this year’s musical shall be about the kids’ final days at East High. Determined to see that this is her show and not the Wildcats, pink queen Sharpay Evans (Ashley Tisdale) enlists the help of her dorky brother Ryan (Lucas Grabeel) and exchange student Tiara Gold (Jemma McKenzie-Brown) to help her hijack the play. Meanwhile, Gabriella gets the gang to do the show, knowing this is the last time they will get to do something together. (How likely is it that the ball-hugging jocks are doing the school musical for the third year in a row?)

“High School Musical 3: Senior Year” is the worst of the HSM trilogy, but it is still good. The songs and dances are fun, but they take up too much of the movie for there to be as good a plot as its prequels. Ryan is still as dorky as ever, and Sharpay can’t seem to understand she will never get Troy’s heart.

I liked the fact that none of the actors were replaced even though they are all about 21-22 years old. The dance numbers a superbly demonstrated and almost every kind of music you can think of is in this film. There are hip hop, slow, rock, and other kinds of music.

Unfortunately, there is too much music in the movie for there to be a good plot, and Mrs. Darbus isn’t as goofy as she was in the last two movies. My friend Virgil went to see this with me (even though he’s never seen the HSM movies) and liked it. My sister Carol went to this film with a group of her friends, and they all screamed with delight (according to my sister) whenever Troy came on the screen. That happens to me whenever I walk in a room. They booed whenever Troy and Gabriella kissed though (sixth graders, yuck!)

Everyone knows about this franchise, so why did Disney take it to the big screen instead of keeping it on TV? The most logical answer in my opinion is, for the $$$$. The question is whether it’s really worth the $3.50 coke and $4.50 popcorn, plus the $6 movie ticket to see this flick. Yeah, I think it’s worth it, especially since my parents paid my way.

Rated G for Good Enough 1 hour, 40 minutes