[Review] Into the Woods

There are a number of films I’ve watched over the last half year in which the reviews got put on the back burner.  Many people have probably seen some of these flicks but I’ll slowly post them up as I get through each review.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER?

Into the Woods was a much-anticipated movie adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical in which the story is a compilation of a number of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales.  The story begins with the Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) who are eager to have a child but unable to conceive due to a curse being placed on the Baker’s family.  The Witch (Meryl Streep) placed the curse after catching the Baker’s father stealing vegetables from her garden, which include some magical beans.  The Witch offers to lift the curse if they obtain 4 items to make a potion: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold.

Here is where the other characters come into the story.  Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) must sell his beloved cow, Milky White, for his poor family; Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), who has a serious sweet tooth, picks up treats at the Baker’s shop for her sick grandmother; Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) is the Witch’s adopted daughter, who lives in a tower in the woods; and Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) runs into the Baker’s Wife while fleeing from the Prince (Chris Pine) at the Ball.

I can see why many are fans of the musical as Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine have weaved an interesting tale.  I haven’t seen the musical myself but this was definitely a movie I had looked forward to for its Christmas release.  As is the problem with many adaptations, the movie edits section of the original story to make it all fit into the film.  However, this musical has way too many characters and their own individuals backstories that made certain developments come out of nowhere.

Being first introduced to the Baker and his Wife, I related to their characters the most.  Despite the hardships in their relationships, I got the sense that there was love and support in their marriage.  The infidelity of the Wife, with none other than the Prince, and the outcome thereafter, really came out of left field for me.

In addition, Rapunzel is technically the Baker’s sister and while the connection in their relationship is touched upon, it doesn’t play a major factor in the story.  Rapunzel’s story is the most disappointing as her the ending to her story changes from the play.  With the exception of the outcome, much of Rapunzel’s story arc is similar to Cinderella’s and so she felt like a flat, two-dimensional character.

Having said that, I know the Prince’s has a far more extensive storyline but I did find his dynamic with Cinderella to be thought-provoking.  Their story adds an interesting level of depth about the meaning of “happily ever after” and the original play isn’t afraid to break stereotypical mold of the classic story.

I’m quite fond of James Corden, in general, but I loved his bumbling, every man quality to his character.  Johnny Depp plays the Big Bad Wolf but his performance was forgettable.  Chris Pine is justifiably pompous and comical but he was paired well with solemnness of Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella.

It’s no surprise that I was taken by Meryl Streep’s performance as the Witch as she’s got that innate ability to pull you in.  Her performance of “Witch’s Lament” was especially moving.  As much as I scorned her character early in the film, she managed to make the Witch’s insecurity relatable.

Personally, my favorite number is probably the sappy “No One is Alone” sung by cast.  Between all the back and forth, this number comes at a key moment when the film needs a bit of serenity and reflection.  The film does have its high notes and looks visually stunning as you would expect from this blockbuster.  However, the jam-packed cast and awkward pacing is the film’s biggest downfall.

Rating

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