You know what’s crazy? Sometimes I tend to think that without Up in the Air we’d have written off Anna Kendrick as a serious actress a long time ago because of her association with the Twilight franchise.
There’s a residual stench to it to anyone but the “Twi-Hards” that turned a substantial young adult novel series into one of the highest grossing film franchises of all time haven’t supported anything the cast has done en masse. Taylor Lautner went from being a movie star on the rise while in the franchise … to being just another face in the crowd after Abduction failed to do anything commercially or critically. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have predictably struggled to find a foothold in their careers since the franchise concluded, both intrinsically identified with it because of their prominent roles, and the rest of the prominent members of the cast have returned back to their pre-Twilight levels of fame and prominence.
Anna Kendrick, though … we really don’t associate her with it despite her involvement in every film of the franchise. In part it’s because we as a movie going audience kind of understand that sometimes you have to slum it for a bit to do the films you’re meant to. Matthew McConaughey was in a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel, among other things, and now he’s an Oscar winning leading man of substance. In the end game we’ll chalk it up to a young actress establishing commercial bona fides without becoming a tabloid star in the process. Not every film is a masterpiece, or something to be proud of, but a good cinematic resume does require some dues paying in the process.
With Up in the Air we saw something that said that Kendrick was someone who had talent. We saw that she could be great in the future given the right project, and we got with a film about acapella groups in college. It simultaneously poked fun at the coming of age tropes while also being a great coming of age film. Pitch Perfect helped to establish the bona fides of a number of people from the cast, most of whom are returning, and landed Kendrick a legit Top 40 hit with “Cups.”
But without Up in the Air we probably would’ve seen the same thing happen to Kendrick, I think, that happened to Stewart, Pattinson and Lautner. In less than two years they went from major celebrities to actors that you can’t remember what their last project was. She’d have been washed out in the tide like Ashley Greene, another young actress who can show up at conventions for 20 years and make a nice living with autographs like an ‘80s pro wrestler or a slasher movie heroine in between indie projects.
Up in the Air garnered her an Oscar nomination and tons of accolades, of course, but the thing that stuck with me the most is that it reminded us of how good, charismatic and interesting of an actress she can be. Admittedly it’s when she isn’t playing second fiddle to Kristen Stewart in campy, dinner theatre wannabe productions that play to the most basic among us. We could kind of forgive her for those horrible films because they were paycheck roles. She kind of got a pass because this franchise, and the paychecks involved, got her into films we could care about.
The whole trajectory of her career was changed overnight with that film because we saw a glimpse of what she could be on a grand scale.
Crazy enough Pitch Perfect might wind up being the franchise we remember her most in as opposed to the one that will have made significantly more money at the box office. Kendrick in the lead of the Pitch Perfect is more fitting and more memorable for any number of reasons. The key is that it inspires a different emotion than the mockery that Twilight did. For all the cultural zeitgeist that Twilight was, spurring the young adult novel film movement (and giving plenty of work to young actresses), Pitch Perfect has a shot at being the sort of film franchise that can be looked back at like Footloose is today: genuinely fun.
I remember what I wrote, and what I thought, when I saw the trailer for the first film in what I presume will probably wind up being a three film franchise. In fact, with the beauty of the internet, I can link it here and quote it directly. AHEM.
“Singing films are like films about dance crews: you know they’ll suck, they know they’ll suck and everyone just waits for them to stop with the crappy acting to get to the cover songs.”
I was coming off a weekend of insulting the faith based film Last Ounce of Courage, which did garner my first physical threat. So perhaps I wasn’t in the best of moods … but to be fair that’s usually par for the course. I had been making fun of it since the trailer was first released and it easily was the biggest surprise of the year. I paid to see the film three times by the end of its run in theatres, which is a rarity because I normally don’t see a film more than once in a theatre.
I wound up calling Pitch Perfect one of my Top 10 of the year for 2012 and has easily been one of the more rewatchable films from 2012 in the two years since. It’s found a significant fan base on DVD after being a minor hit, making well over $100 million worldwide off a budget of less than $20 million. It made sense for a sequel to be greenlit, despite not really being necessary, because Hollywood has traditionally been in love with franchises.
So now, two years after Pitch Perfect became a hit and Breaking Dawn Part 2 finished up that particular franchise, we’re in a much different cinematic landscape. And out of that entire cast, all mailing it in for a miserably awful franchise, Kendrick’s rise to prominence afterwards has been remarkable.
And now she has her chance at immortality with a franchise that’ll have a chance to do something remarkable in the summer movie season. Next year is going to be the year where “Hollywood is resurging” with a new Star Wars, another Avengers film and any number of substantive films coming out. The narrative will be there, especially after a down year like 2014 is going to wind up being. And Pitch Perfect 2, situated as perhaps the best of counter programming, has a shot at doing something wild.
While this is the era of the costumed hero, replacing the era of the movie star, we’ve got a chance at a genuinely fun franchise for the first time in a while.
Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq
Travis tackled the latest Hunger Games film.
BC with some thoughts on 22 Jump Street.
And now on MMC … we watch Melvin Manhoef get planked.
If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….
I didn’t have the chance to watch anything new on DVD this week … thus I say this: have a good Thanksgiving.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound
Horrible Bosses 2 – The trio is back for more, ahem, shenanigans.
Skip it – The first wasn’t all that funny and this promises to be far, far worse.
Penguins of Madagascar – The side characters get their own film many years after it would’ve been relevant.
Skip It – The final cash in for the franchise and counter programming opposite a hard R rated film.
The Imitation Game – The story of Alan Turing vs. Nazi machines. In limited release.
See It – Benedict Cumberbatch is getting strong Oscar buzz for a reason.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .
Tags: Anna Kendrick, Monday Morning Critic, pitch perfect, Pitch Perfect 2, Twilight