Monday, January 12, 2015

Into the Woods

Into the Woods – 125min – PG

Of the two musicals out now, this one is my favorite. I enjoyed the stage show and I think it translates well to the screen.  They had to make some changes to adapt it to a screen but the heart of the story is still there. As this is a Disney production it’s been watered down in parts but there is absolutely loads of talent in this project that give the production life. There are some great messages for the kids but it’s not exclusively a kid’s movie. This film is a green light.

A baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) have been cursed by a witch (Meryl Streep).  They will never have a child unless they go into the woods and gather items for a spell. Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) goes into the woods to get advice from her mother because she wants to go to the Festival. Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) is in the woods to sell his cow.  Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) is on her way into the woods to visit her grandmother. 

We see the beginning of all of these fairy tails and watch as they intermingle and interact while they are trying to accomplish their own quests in the woods. The story also changes from fantasy to some real life problems that people have to deal with. It’s a cautionary tell that shows you what happens after the “happily ever after” of each of these stories.

Bernadette Peters will always be the witch for me but Meryl Streep did a fine job of managing the role. They did tweak the interaction between her and the baker.  In the stage production the witch only mentions once that she can’t come in contact with the items she has asked.  In the film there was three times that the plot point gets related. 

Anna Kendrick really caught my attention with her performance. I have to go back and watch her previous work as a singer. She is the stand out performance in this film. She is wonderful in the second act comforting little red riding hood. There is a tenderness that comes through her performance; it’s very motherly and engaging. 

The one issue I have with this film is more of a costume design issue.  Johnny Depp’s performance was fine but having him dressed more like a Zoot suited Tex Avery version of a wolf makes his song seem more like a sex offender than a carnivore. They should have made him look more like a creature unless they were aiming for a skin crawling scene. I would have felt better.

The song "Agony" is well worth the price alone. The princes' dueling suffering is done much better in the film. The powerful performances couldn’t be contained on the stage, It can only truly been enjoyed on the big screen.  They dropped the subplot of the princes chasing after Snow white and Sleeping Beauty. That change is reflective of how much they have scrubbed the more adult aspects of the play. The story has been Disney-ified. The Baker’s wife and The Chroming Prince go from a roll in the hay to a snogging in the woods.

Some of the cuts in the story serve to streamline the story without losing the effects of the lessons it’s trying to teach. One of my favorite songs that stayed was "I Know Things Now" and is the best lesson people can learn. 

What was your favorite part? 

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