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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Pitch Perfect 3

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Downsizing” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.  

What can I say? I love these movies. For me personally, the “Pitch Perfect” movies are an official three for three trilogy. Sure, while “Pitch Perfect 3” may not be exactly on the same level as the first two, it’s still a fun movie and a worthy sequel in its own right.

All of the elements of a great “Pitch Perfect” movie are present, including funny riff-offs, melodic musical mash-ups, and snarky commentary from ever-present John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks), who constantly poke fun at the beleaguered Barden Bellas and seem to especially enjoy kicking them when they’re down. Given that this is the last movie of the series (until the inevitable “next generation” reboot we will almost surely get ten years from now), their barbs are particularly pointy. They may be mean, but they are also very funny. That counts for something in a comedy.



John and Gail have added documentary filmmaking to their resumes, and follow the reunited Barden Bellas—who have gone separate ways since their victory in ”Pitch Perfect 2”—as they journey to Europe on a USO Tour. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, as Beca (Anna Kendrick), in a scene that confirms many of my suspicions about the real talent in the music industry, quits her job in frustration. Her roommate Fat Amy (stalwart scene stealer Rebel Wilson) doesn’t work at all (no Amy, your performance Art does not count), so when Aubrey (Anna Camp) mentions that her high-ranking military father can book them and the Bellas on a USO tour, they jump at the chance.

Whereas in the previous two “Pitch Perfect” movies the concentration was on the Bellas, the music, and Beca, with the rest of the cast as supporting players, “Pitch Perfect 3” pulls up Fat Amy as a more integral part of the plot. This is because her estranged father, Fergus (John Lithgow), tracks her down in Europe. He wants to reunite with Amy, but she’s skeptical. They have a touch and go past, and she doesn’t entirely trust him to be truthful. She’s been emotionally hurt by him too many times before, which is why she ran away from him years ago.



Lithgow is perfect for the role of Fergus. There are very few actors who are versatile enough to play the extremes of silly, goofy, and funny as well as deeply dark, disturbed, and sinister. What’s more, there are very few roles that require him to do both. He is a truly great talent to behold, the way he can seemingly flip a switch and go from warm and cuddly one minute to seething and irate the next. I also have to give him credit for his Australian accent. It was quite a surprise when he opened his mouth to speak for the first time. The only other movie I can recall in which Lithgow put on an accent was his genteel southern accent--also well performed—in Brian De Palma’s “Obsession.” That movie was released in 1976. I’d have to check the records to see if it’s really been 41 years between accents.

While the movie may take a turn into the absurd for the climax of the story, the tone is consistent and it is silly enough fun to work. Fat Amy shows off some impressive skills at the end that are completely ludicrous. The sequence reminded me of the classic Muppet movies when Miss Piggy would freak out and clobber any villains in her way. It’s something different, I found it refreshing, and it made me laugh. Then afterward we are treated to a perfect (dare I say pitch perfect) ending that is super sweet and a great send off for our beloved Barden Bellas. Buy it on Amazon: Pitch Perfect 3 [Blu-ray].

Also New This Week

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is a great testament that truth in advertising is still alive and well. This is a movie for which you can watch the preview, which sets an expectation of how it is going to be, and then yep—it delivers exactly what it promises to deliver. No more, no less.

This sequel to the 1995 hit “Jumanji,” which starred Robin Williams, brings gaming into the new millennium. Now instead of a board game, “Jumanji” morphs itself into a video game. After four students in detention—nerdy Spencer (Alex Wolff), jock Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), self-centered Bethany (Madison Iseman), and prissy Martha (Morgan Turner)—get sucked into the game, they turn into their video game avatars. Now, Spencer looks like Dwayne Johnson and is a weapons expert, Fridge looks likes Kevin Hart, runs slow, and carries supplies, and Martha looks like Karen Gillan plus is a hand to hand combat expert. As for Bethany, she mistakenly interprets the avatar description where it says “Curvy Genius” and winds up looking like Jack Black. But she is the only one who can read the map, which is pretty important for the group to find their way around the world.

The movie got the biggest laughs from me whenever it made fun of video game tropes. Anyone who has played adventure/role playing games will surely recognize them. For example, when they are greeted by Nigel (Rhys Darby), the exposition-spouting non-player character who they meet when first entering into Jumanji, he gives them all the exact same greeting, repeated verbatim and in the same tone of voice. After Nigel greets them all he lays down the plot: an evil adventurer named Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) has taken a precious gem from the eye of a giant jaguar statue and it must be retrieved and returned for the game to be won. This all takes place in Nigel’s jeep, and when he is done, he pulls over and lets them out. Fridge then makes an observation that, while practical in real life and a true laugh out loud moment, wouldn’t leave much of a game to play. Plus they still need to retrieve the gem anyway.

The CGI in “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” looks good, but not so good as to be photo real. There is a layer or two of artifice to the hippos, rhinos, elephants, and jaguars, and that’s a good thing. They are in a video game, and a computer rendered feel to the animals serves as a reminder to that point.

The plot is very video game-esque, as there are missions to complete and objects to obtain in order to advance to the next level. Each character even gets three lives, signified by marks on their forearms, so if they die in the game they can be resurrected three times. Clever use is made out of this trope, and in some unexpected ways. The action is kept to a safe PG-13 level so that graphically it’s more “Street Fighter” than it is “Mortal Kombat.” In all, it’s very entertaining for video gamers and non-video gamers alike. Rent it.

Downsizing

In his review of “Downsizing,” Dan mentions that the best way to watch this movie is to shut it off after Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) shrinks. I do not have that luxury, but I can recount what the experience would be like to do such a thing, then go on to review the rest of the movie. Here we go:

Part I: 0:00 min to 40:00

It’s pretty thought provoking. We see a lab in Norway create the technology to shrink living organisms down to the height of a pencil, then watch as the technology grows and becomes more mainstream and available to the public. While the movie does get a bit preachy with its climate change propaganda, interesting aspects of the socio-economic ramifications of people going through with downsizing are explored. The process of downsizing itself also seems to be well thought out. Hair has to be shaved since it cannot shrink (technically hair is dead, dried skin), and any inorganic prosthetics, like teeth fillings and crowns, must also be removed prior to downsizing. This is certainly an interesting, exciting, and thought provoking world. Up to this point, it has my interest.

Part II: 40:00 min to end of movie

The purpose of downsizing, on the surface, is to save the planet. It’s also good for middle class people, since $152,000 becomes $12.5 million after downsizing. Other than that, what’s the point? The problems of the downsized world are hardly any different than in the regular size world. There are still rich and poor people. Sickness and hardship abound. There are people living in slums who hardly have enough to eat. It’s mentioned that there is no crime in this community, but that is very hard to believe.

Paul has a difficult time adjusting to life in the downsized world, but eventually finds his place by helping people. Again, who cares? Paul was an occupational therapist for Omaha Steaks when he was regular size. He always helped people. In order for this choice to matter, Paul would need to be selfish in some way, then find redemption through helping out those in need. Since he was always a helpful and caring person, there is no growth or character development for him. He’s just doing what he always did. Big whoop.

Eventually the movie takes a real nose dive at the end with a depressing premise that bogs down the already mediocre proceedings. Dan was right. Something much more creative and interesting should have been done with this premise. “Downsizing,” on the whole, is a wasted opportunity. A truly unique idea squandered on a bland main character and a lackluster plot.
 
If Dan’s advice is to be followed, I say Stream it, and be absolutely sure to shut it off after Paul is shrunk—about forty minutes in. The remaining hour and thirty-five minutes are a complete waste of time and it is highly recommended to Skip it altogether.

More New Releases: “Delirium,” forgettable half found footage/half not movie about a fraternity hazing ritual in a haunted house.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut. 

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