Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review of INTO THE WOODS: Merry Fairytale Mash-Up

January 28, 2015



"Into the Woods" is a musical play with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. It made its Broadway debut on November 5, 1987, when it won several Tony Awards, including Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress in a Musical (Joanna Gleason). Bernadette Peters memorably portrayed the Witch, singing the main song for which the show is known,"Children Will Listen."

A baker and his wife was cursed childless by a vengeful wicked witch. The witch asks for four special items in order to break the spell. The couple crosses paths with various Brothers Grimm fairy tale characters,  like Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (and the Beanstalk), Rapunzel, and Cinderella in their quest. Unfortunately, the merry mix-up of circumstances still do not seem to work in their favor. Will they be able to meet the witch's deadline and finally get the child they had long been waiting for? Will everyone be getting their happily-ever-after?

Understandably, owing to the fantasy nature of this story, film is expected to be an ideal medium for the tale to unfold. This film version was just begging to be done. Now, thanks to Disney, the dream of the original show's many fans is finally a reality. I had seen a local production of the play many years ago and I remember I liked it very much. The all-star cast assembled as well as the awards buzz around it made me very excited to see it.

Director Rob Marshall had worked on film versions of three other Broadway hits before with mixed results. His first directorial job was the TV version of "Annie" in 1999, winning Emmys. He hit the major jackpot with "Chicago" in 2002, going on to win the Oscar for Best Picture and five other categories, nominated for 7 more. His interpretation of "Nine" (2009) though did not go too well, but it still earned him four Oscar nominations. "Into the Woods" gets three nominations: Supporting Actress, Production Design and Costume Design (by Colleen Atwood, who already won Oscars for her work in "Chicago", "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Alice in Wonderland").

James Corden plays the Baker, yet another kindly gentle musical man in his list of characters much similar to those he played in "Begin Again" and " One Chance." He projects real goodness on his face, making him fit for this role. Emily Blunt not only displays her talents for drama and comedy, but also surprises us with her singing prowess in her role as Baker's Wife. This was a far departure from her other big role in 2014, that of the futuristic battle heroine in "Edge of Tomorrow," proving her versatility.

Meryl Streep earns yet another Oscar nomination (Best Supporting Actress) for her role as the Witch. This gives her a grand total of 19 nominations from the Academy, for which she has won three. Ms. Streep goes all over the top in her performance here. That she can sing is not a surprise anymore since she took on "Mamma Mia." I think she could get a nomination in whatever film she is in really if the role is unique enough, even though it is not really one of her best.

Anna Kendrick plays Cinderella, with Chris Pine as her Prince Charming and Christine Baranski as her Stepmother. If you have read the original Grimm version of Cinderella and how gruesome the shoe fitting went, this was how it was done here. Johnny Depp plays the Big Bad Wolf to Lilla Crawford's Little Red Riding Hood. Their first encounter where the Wolf singing "Hello, Little Girl" was supposedly tamed down from the original stage version but it was still very uncomfortable to watch. 

The first half of the film was so much fun to watch with all the action so cleanly edited together the complex story of intertwining fairytales flowed very smoothly and hilariously. Fun and momentum bogs down quite a bit, making time pass a little more slowly in the stranger, more darkly contemplative second half. Anyhow for me, this is one entertaining movie overall. However, those not familiar with with the original play and its music may not like it as much as I did, or even flat out hate it. 8/10.


27 comments:

  1. seems like a horror movie. I'm gonna wait for this movie since I like watching horror. hahahha

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    1. The poster may look like horror, but if you read the article, you will know that it is far from that.

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  2. Oh gosh, I wasn't planning to watch into the woods! But now that I've read yours, it looks like I should have done that! :(

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  3. Sounds like a really interesting movie with strong story lines. Great review :D

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  4. You know what, I usually go through the commex list from 1st to last, but when I saw that you're reviewing into the woods, I jumped here first! This is a must watch for me the moment I saw the poster! Glad to read that you loved it too!

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  5. I will surely watch this movie together with my kids, they will love it!

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    1. Even if the MTRCB rated it G, I think this should have been a PG-13.

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  6. I've seen this movie na. and Me and wife are satisfied with how the film was made. Nice acting for Miss Streep. A must-see musical film.

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  7. Watched it last Saturday. I would say not everyone love musical based movie. So, for those who doesn't enjoy watching musical type, it is boring.

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    1. Yes. I may have to agree with your observation. Particularly in the second half.

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  8. A really good cast!! Love Meryl Streep and love, love, love James Corden!! He is a proper geezer! Sim @ simslife.co.uk x

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    1. Glad to meet another James Corden fan!

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  9. This is a movie of a musical play. It could be entertaining. How I wish I could see this movie. The character is on their gruesome look as if the movie setting is a horror one, but not. Is it not misleading for the poster which features a witch?

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    1. She is more of fairytale fantasy witch than horror witch. :-). I read people actuslly angered by the poster and trailer which never said it was a musical.

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  10. I watched a few minutes of it last week via online streaming. I didn't like it. But after reading your review, perhaps it's good to finish the movie entirely.

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    1. If you didn't like the first half, you'd hate the second half. Hehe. This is one of those films that can polarize opinions. I like it, but I read a lot who don't.

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  11. Meryl!!! I'm a man, but I love Meryl Hahaha I don't know what's in her, I just love her. Hmmm quite a movie. Might have to check this out.

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  12. It's nice that they integrated the fairy tale characters in the story. It really makes the shows dynamics really interesting. It reminds me of the once upon a time series also based on fairy tale characters.

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  13. I so wanted to watch this movie by Disney... Attracted with the fairy tales inside the story and tell it in a different ways!~

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  14. OMG! My favorite actress and actors - Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. Another must watch movie for me.

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  15. I've been dying to watch this movie!! Hope I get to watch soon! :)

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  16. I haven't seen this yet, but I can't wait to now and see how to it all unfold. Disney never fail.

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  17. Before I read your review, I thought it was just another scary, blood and guts movie. I'm glad it adds fantasy and magic to the mix. Meryl is a brilliant actress and I'll watch anything she's in.

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  19. Every appearance by Meryl Streep is spectacular! I love her inimitable and brilliant acting! Her part here is no exception. Into the Woods promises to be a great fun for my two kids so we are definitely gonna watch it

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  20. wwaaaaahhh! I love Meryl Streep! It's like a few disney movies combined into one! ill certainly watch this!

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