“Pitch Perfect 3” assures that the highly successful musical series exits stage left on the highest possible note.

Yes, it’s a comedy sequel and it’s the third time around. However, thanks to a clever and highly self-aware script, this third installment actually is an improvement upon its immediate predecessor.

Fans of the series should delight in what they get, even as the series seems to be taking its final curtain call.

What’s it about?

“Perfect 3” picks up with Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Aubrey (Anna Camp) and the rest of the Barden Bellas a few years after the events of the last film. With the exception of Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), who is still in college, the group’s members have all graduated and moved on into the “real world,” where their world champion a capella skills haven’t quite translated into success.

Though their post-academia troubles all differ, the one-time Bellas all share one common desire: to perform together one last time. The chance to do so comes thanks to a European USO tour and a competition of sorts for a spot opening for rap mogul DJ Khaled (playing himself).

Can the girls rise to another challenge, this time away from collegiate competition rules and an even playing field? And what other mischief lies in wait for the Barden Bellas as they cross an ocean to take the stage and entertain U.S. troops far and wide?

Sorry. No aca-spoilers here.  You’ll just have to see for yourself.

All about the music

One thing that’s undeniable about the “Pitch Perfect” series is the bright, infectious energy each installment delivers in its musical numbers. The creativity of the hit song mash-ups, when paired with the staging and choreography of the performances, consistently provide the real delight in these films, and help them transcend their genre trappings.

“Perfect 3” provides even more memorable musical moments while casting the Bellas as underdogs once again, this time going voice-to-voice against professional, polished musicians. As before, its fun to watch just how Beca and Co. rise to the challenge – be fully prepared to leave the theater with at least one song stuck in your head.

Script full of winks, nods

Original “Pitch Perfect” screenwriter Kay Cannon’s script for “Perfect 3,” co-written by Mike White (“School of Rock”), is full of quips and gags that have fun with the fact that this is a sequel, it’s the third time around and most likely the last time.

Characters commenting on obvious exposition? Check. Characters faced with the fact that they’ve been basically named extras the whole time? Check. One beloved character actually revealing her real name for the first time? Check.

It all adds up to a definitive feeling that this is the final encore. It may prove bittersweet to longtime fans, but it’s all done so cleverly that the giggles should be enough to keep any tears away.

Action-Adventure? Sort of

One thing that “Pitch Perfect 3” does not do well is try to shoehorn a “Taken”-style thriller style subplot into the course of its third act.

Yes, that subplot does allow for Rebel Wilson to garner even more laughs as well as show off some surprisingly nimble fighting moves. But tonally it doesn’t really match the rest of the film – it just veers too close to outright parody.

Worth seeing?

As with any sequel, its fair to say that for fans of the series, “Pitch Perfect 3” should be an aca-no-brainer. There shouldn’t be any letdown here, either – what you’ve loved all along is celebrated and taken for one last joyride, and for the most part it all works.

Just how much audiences who haven’t seen the other films will enjoy the film will depend entirely on their appreciation/tolerance for song and dance in film as well as the brands of humor Kendrick, Wilson and company each bring to the table. Obviously, if you’re not a fan of characters spontaneously bursting into song in films, you should spend your time and money elsewhere.

But if you enjoy those elements and are looking for a light-hearted, fun celebration of family, friendship and music, you’ll still find plenty to enjoy here, and you may just want to go back and watch the first two afterward, as well.

Pitch Perfect 3

Starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, John Lithgow, DJ Khaled, Hana Mae Lee, Ruby Rose, Alexis Knapp, Chrissie Fit, Ester Dean, Shelley Regner, Kelley Jakle, with John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks. Directed by Trish Lie.
Running time: 93 minutes
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language and some action.