Total Recall

Anna Kendrick's Best-Reviewed Movies

We run down the Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates star's most acclaimed films.

by | July 6, 2016 | Comments

This weekend’s Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates uses real-life events as the loose inspiration for some R-rated fun with a pair of clueless bros and the hard-partying women who hoodwink them into a date to their little sister’s nuptials. And since one of the young ladies in question is played by the ever-charming Anna Kendrick, we decided this would be a great time to take a fond look back at some of the brightest critical highlights from her career thus far. Hold on to your cups — it’s time for Total Recall!

Into the Woods (2014) 71%

Stephen Sondheim fans were concerned when word got out that Disney was bringing his Tony-winning musical Into the Woods to the big screen — chiefly because it seemed likely that the studio would lop off the less family-friendly elements of its twisted fairy tale story. Like any adaptation, the film version wasn’t exactly the same as its source material, but happily for Sondheim enthusiasts — and those who like a little dark fantasy mixed in with their musicals — Woods survived its journey to theaters largely intact. As Cinderella, Kendrick upped the superstar quotient of the robust ensemble assembled by director Rob Marshall, which also included Meryl Streep as a witch, Emily Blunt as a woman desperate to undo her curse, and Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf. “Some of the musical’s superfans will feel shortchanged by the movie no matter what, but you have to give credit where it’s due,” warned the Washington Post’s Stephanie Merry. “The adaptation is pretty faithful to the original — for better and worse.”

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The Voices (2014) 74%

For most films, making your main protagonist an employee at a bathtub factory would more than fulfill the weirdness quotient. But for 2015’s The Voices, that’s just the beginning of a surreal odyssey into bloody violence and black comedy — oh, and talking pets. Directed by acclaimed graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi by a script from Paranormal Activity 2 co-writer Michael R. Perry, The Voices stars Ryan Reynolds as an unhinged loner with some very dark secrets to hide — and Kendrick as a potential love interest who stands to make some disturbing discoveries. While its main character’s warped descent into a bleak, chaotic psychological abyss definitely isn’t for all viewers, those with a taste for the strange have found the end results intoxicating; as Sara Stewart wrote for the New York Post, it adds up to a “tonally wild indie, which is nearly too horrifying to be funny — but not quite.”

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 Happy Christmas (2014) 75%

Kendrick reunited with Drinking Buddies writer-director Joe Swanberg for 2014’s Happy Christmas, in which a young woman at an emotional crossroads decides to crash with her older brother — and her arrival triggers an uncomfortable upheaval in his life of domestic bliss. Like a lot of Swanberg pictures, Christmas coalesces around a series of low-key, largely improvised moments, but with enough of a dramatic throughline to elevate the proceedings beyond their familiar narrative underpinnings. “All in all,” wrote the Los Angeles Times’ Betsy Sharkey, “Happy Christmas is a good deal like cartoon Charlie Brown’s classic tree — scraggly, plenty of heart and much to enjoy, especially if you prefer your presents homemade.”

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Pitch Perfect (2012) 81%

Anna Kendrick can make a hundred movies, but for many filmgoers, she’ll probably always be most strongly identified with the Pitch Perfect series, and it’s easy to understand why. The fizzy charm of the 2012 original, starring Kendrick as a reluctant college freshman who stumbles into harmony with a campus a cappella group, exploded into a surprise $115 million hit — not only at the box office, but on the pop charts, where she scored a Top 10 single with “Cups,” her cover of the Carter Family classic “When I’m Gone.” The 2015 sequel (which added Hailee Steinfeld to an ace ensemble that already included Rebel Wilson) more than doubled its predecessor’s theatrical gross, and a third installment is already scheduled for 2017. Most critics have shared the audience’s evident enthusiasm for the franchise; as Connie Ogle wrote in her review of the original for the Miami Herald, “If you’re not grinning by the end of this light, funny crowd-pleaser, consider yourself tone deaf.”

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) 82%

After catching Hollywood’s eye in Up in the Air — and while she was still popping up in the Twilight franchise — Kendrick played the sister of the title character in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Edgar Wright’s adaptation of the Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novels about a bass player (Michael Cera) who has to battle, video game style, past his new lady love’s exes in order to win her affection. Stuffed with fun pop culture nods and stacked with a cast that also included Chris Evans, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Brie Larson, and Aubrey Plaza, Pilgrim opened to surprising critical indifference, but it earned the affection of critics like Slate’s Dana Stevens, who called it “A package of cinematic Pop Rocks, a neon-hued, defiantly non-nutritive confection that nonetheless makes you laugh at its sheer bold novelty.”

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Drinking Buddies (2013) 84%

The first of several films Kendrick’s made with the incredibly prolific Joe Swanberg, Drinking Buddies centers on the professional and romantic travails of a young Chicago foursome (rounded out by Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston), two of whom are co-workers at a local brewery. It might sound like a slim nail on which to hang a rom-com, but most critics thought it added up to some pretty engaging stuff — particularly since, as per Swanberg custom, the actors improvised their dialogue around the outline of the story. Filmed in a real working brewery (by actors drinking real beer), Drinking Buddies won over critics who’d already seen enough rom-coms for several lifetimes; as Moira MacDonald wrote for the Seattle Times, it “Sneaks up on you…you think it’s going in one direction, and suddenly it goes somewhere much more interesting.”

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Rocket Science (2007) 84%

You’ve probably watched more coming-of-age stories than you can count, but in the right hands, it’s a formula that can pay powerful dividends. Case in point: 2007’s Rocket Science, a teen dramedy about a high school student (Reece Thompson) whose stuttering makes it difficult to feel like he fits in — until he meets the star of the school’s debate team (Kendrick), who convinces him to sign up. Kendrick earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her work, which offered an intriguing prelude to the bigger-budget work looming in her future; calling the results “Self-consciously quirky on the outside,” Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek wrote, “this gentle teenage fable has an affecting, openhearted core.”

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End of Watch (2012) 85%

Cops versus gangbangers on the mean city streets! It’s a story Hollywood’s told countless times, but with End of Watch, director David Ayer still found a way to make it feel somewhat new. His success is due in no small part to this 2012 crime drama’s terrific cast, led by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as LAPD partners working the South Central beat. Kendrick, as Gyllenhaal’s significant other, has more of a stock part, but — like her castmates — she infused what could have been a two-dimensional character with new life. “End of Watch is one thriller where the adrenaline rush, considerable as it is, is almost always put in the service of character,” observed NPR’s Bob Mondello. “Happily, the character on display turns out to be considerable, too.”

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Up in the Air (2009) 90%

Kendrick earned an Academy Award nomination for her work in this Jason Reitman dramedy, which put its finger on the pulse of the Great Recession with a story about a corporate downsizer (George Clooney) whose unencumbered, jet-setting lifestyle is thrown off its axis by the arrival of a new HR consultant (Kendrick) whose plans for the company threaten to make him obsolete. Its themes cut uncomfortably close for a number of viewers in uncertain economic times, but Up in the Air leavened the gloom with intelligent observations on modern culture — and even a bit of hope. “Timeliness can be tricky to pull off convincingly in movies,” wrote Claudia Puig for USA Today. “It’s tough to capture an era while it’s still happening, yet Up in the Air does so brilliantly, with wit and humanity.”

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50/50 (2011) 93%

Although Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were unquestionably the leads in 50/50, this 2011 “cancer comedy” — starring Gordon-Levitt as a guy who gets through his cancer diagnosis with a lot of help from his best buddy Rogen — was really rounded out by a pretty stellar ensemble. Kendrick joined the cast as Katherine, a medical therapist who develops a deeply personal relationship with Gordon-Levitt’s character, winsomely lowering the bro quotient in a deceptively thoughtful look at disease that earned nearly universal critical acclaim. “What ensues is Beaches meets Pineapple Express,” wrote Mary Elizabeth Williams for Salon. “Which, I’ve got to tell you, is pretty much what living with cancer is like.”

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