Into the Woods (2014)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, James Corden, Tracey UIlman, Anna Kendrick, Christine Baranski, Johnny Depp
Directed by: Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha)
Synopsis: Based on the 1987 musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, it is the mash-up of several of Grimm’s fairy tales with more charm and humor. Basically fairy tales told with more of an adult sensibility and leaning towards satire.
What work(s): Basically everything. The acting was phenomenal from everyone, even the children. The intertwined crossovers of the different tales was very entertaining and funny, especially when there’s scenes like when Emily Blunt is trying to cut off Rapunzel’s hair or steal Cinderella’s slipper for her own needs. The songs were great (although not too memorable I’d have to say—but still very nice songs) that enhanced the themes and plots. Especially, “Agony” where Prince Charming and Rapunzel’s Prince (he was unnamed) sing about not being able to get the girl while they cavort and exaggeratedly express their anguish.
Of course Meryl stole the show as the witch. It’s always nice seeing Streep play against type and especially have fun with a role. She can do anything but she’s synonymous with dramatic roles too much and when she’s in a film like Mamma Mia having fun it’s so refreshing. Her witch role is like that where she doesn’t take it too seriously but plays it with aplomb. Emily Blunt continues to wow me with every new role I see her in and Anna Kendrick is starting to come around for me. This was the first time I liked her completely in a movie. So now I’ll give her more leeway next time. (Not for Pitch Perfect 2 though) And Chris Pine was also perfect being smarmy and dashing in his Prince Charming role.
The film looked great; the visuals were top-notch. I would also like to point out the pacing was well done for a musical. Usually musicals have a roller coaster effect where the songs are the better scenes and the non-musical scenes are dull and plodding. Not so much in this film where both the singing and talking scenes are nicely paced and compliment each other nicely.
What fail(s): Honestly, Johnny Depp. It’s amazing how much his star is falling for me. His career peaked at Pirates of the Caribbean wherein he became synonymous with safe-family fun and wacky characters. Before that he was a brooding, serious and Tim Burton-esque player. It’s enough Johnny. Try playing a father for once or a lawyer with a life-changing case. I bet you can do it for a change. Stop with the weird. It’s boring the shit out of me. In this film, he plays the Big Bad Wolf and I’m not sure how the original musical plays out but it was the only scene in the whole movie that I disliked. First of all, he’s wearing a zoot-suit from like the 1940s with a wide neck tie and fedora. He may have had spats on his shoes too but I’m not 100% sure. But everything in this film is middle-ages or fairy-tale looking so why is he wearing that? Sure, it worked on a Looney Tunes level but it took me out of place for a few moments. Then later on he swallows Little Red Riding Hood and her Granny whole and while he rested the Baker character simply frees them by cutting the wolf open. I understand the thematic affect this scene was trying to convey but out of all the scenes in the movie with fantastical and magical elements this one was the silliest by far. It bugged me because it seemed to me there could’ve been a better way to do it. However, it’s not unwatchable and Depp is fine (I’m just bored with his schtick) and I could ease up with my opinion with another viewing.
Overall: I thoroughly enjoyed this musical. It was a fun time at the movies. I highly recommend it. However, I’m still on the fence on its demographic. I’m pretty sure this is not for little kids. While they will recognize the characters and possibly get the stories, they are not told with the children in mind. The thematic elements in this film are told with the intent that we know and studied these old tales countless times. As we grew up Little Red Riding Hood wasn’t just a kid’s story about a little girl trying to get goodies to her granny’s house and evading the Big Bad Wolf but a parable about sexual awakening and the dangers inherit to that. While the sexual nature of the story was toned down considerably in this Disney adaptation, the kids wouldn’t fully understand everything and at a running time of 2 hours it’s probably not a wise idea to bring the kiddies.
Score: 9 Musical Curses (out of 10)