The third and final installment in the “Pitch Perfect” franchise is aca-blah, to use the film’s ongoing reliance of the “aca” prefix. Definitely, it’s nothing to sing about. My biggest gripe? There isn’t enough song and dance. I love those catchy covers.


Director Trish Sie, helmer of the direct-to-video “Step Up: All In,” working from a script by Kay Cannon and Mike White, centers the film on the hangover the Bellas experience after winning the world a cappella championship in the last movie. Becca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Aubrey (Anna Camp) and their half-dozen cohorts are sinking quickly in the real world and desperate to reunite for one last gig.


The script sends them to Europe on a USO tour to compete against a trio of a groups to win a spot as music mogul DJ Khaled’s (playing himself) opening act. The rival bands use instruments, so a lot of the music isn’t even a cappella. That’s a head-scratcher, but the real puzzle is how the plot of a jazz-hands and sequins dance-spectacular turns into something resembling an action movie, complete with kidnappings, explosions and choreographed fights. It’s a sure sign of a franchise losing its voice. It gets to the point that you might wonder if you’re still watching the same movie.


Back for a third go-round are the cringe-inducing half-witted broadcast team of John (John Michael Higgins) and Gail (Elizabeth Banks, who also produced). John Lithgow (“The Crown”) shows up for a comical take on Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” — and he should have dropped the mic and left the stage. Instead, he’s monkey-wrenched into the plot. Also new to this installment are Guy Burnet as a music producer; Matt Lanter as a hunky soldier and Ruby Rose as the lead singer of the rival girl group, Evermoist, a name that summons terrific punchlines from Wilson’s Fat Amy.


Sie’s biggest asset is the engaging ensemble cast of talented young actresses, which also includes Hailee Steinfeld, Ester Dean, Kelley Jakle, Shelley Regner, Chrissie Fit and Hana Mae Lee. It’s their camaraderie and Wilson’s comedic timing, filthy zingers and knack for physical comedy that make the movie intermittently charming. She’s game for anything, even wearing a red baseball cap that says: “Make America Eat Again.” This final installment in the trilogy might not hit all the right notes, but the Bellas are a family and their friendships are relatable.


The ending leaves nothing unresolved. All plot strings, even Lilly’s (Lee) silence, is tied up and matched with a bow. If nothing more, “Pitch Perfect 3” offers a light escape from a holiday film season full of dramatic Oscar-bait.


— Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@ledger.com or follow her on Twitter at @dbarbuto_Ledger.