Monday, January 5, 2015

Movie Review: "Into the Woods" (2014)

Image Source
Movie"Into the Woods"
Director: Rob Marshall
Rating: PG
Running Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

A baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) wish nothing more than to have a child. Their neighbor, who is a witch (Meryl Streep), tells them of a curse she placed on their house long ago that prevents them from bearing children. She offers to reverse the curse if they can bring her 4 items before the Blue Moon in 3 days time: a cloak as red as blood, a cow as white as milk, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold. The Baker agrees and heads off to the woods to find the items, where luckily, Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) is off to Granny's house wearing a red cloak, Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) is off to market to sell his white cow, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) is heading home from the ball in gold slippers, and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) sits in her tower with hair yellow as corn. Unfortunately, obtaining these items may set off an unforeseen chain of events that does not end in a happily ever after. 

So much of a successful musical and/or musical film adaptation is contingent upon its songs and music. Obviously. While I am typically a huge fan of musicals, "Into the Woods" left a little something to be desired. That is not to say that all of the music wasn't beautifully sung and executed, because it was. When you have a main cast featuring the likes of Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Daniel Huttlestone and Johnny Depp, who have all been in musical film adaptations before, and Tracey Ullman, who has sung for decades, Emily Blunt, who sang backing vocals for her now ex-boyfriend Michael Buble, Lilla Crawford and MacKenzie Mauzy, both stage actresses, and Billy Magnussen, a Tony-nominated actor, you know you're going to be in for one hell of a treat. Well, sort of. And none for Chris Pine, who is this movie's Pierce Brosnan, only with a much better voice.

The songs featured in this movie's trailer are the best ones in the movie itself: "Into the Woods," the tune at the beginning of the movie that prepares us for our journey and pops up more than once, and "Stay With Me," a heartbreaking song between a controlling mother and her inquisitive daughter. "Agony," sung by Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen, was another one of my favorites, aided in large part by their comedic performance during the song on screen, but even outside of the movie, I find the song catchy and lively where BigJ absolutely does not. Other than these three songs, and part of "No One is Alone" towards the end of the movie, the rest of the film is comprised of 98% unmemorable filler songs that we didn't connect with in any way. All of the soundtrack's very literal songs serve to tell tales about family, abandonment, not taking things for granted and relationships, whether romantic or otherwise. The worst song of the entire movie is "Hello Little Girl," sung by Johnny Depp, who I found extremely distracting as The Wolf. This song has no hidden message whatsoever: it's straight-up about sex and Red Riding Hood's sexual awakening, and as an added 'bonus' to is creepiness, includes all the things little girls like, like candy and sweets and treats. UHH, WUT?? Isn't this movie for "kids of all ages" or something?? BigJ and I, wide-eyed and confused, looked at each other during and after this scene to see if what we had just witnessed was true. And it was. Yikes. We get that this is an adaptation of the play and that "Into the Woods" sure tries to cram a lot of life lessons into an over 2 hour time slot, but we think that, for a PG movie, this number with its imagery was unnecessary. Kids might not understand it, but adults sure as hell will.

The dynamic between the Grimm fairy tale characters and the way each of their stories intertwine is really fascinating and expertly done. Meryl Streep is fabulous as per usual and even more stunning in her blackish/blueish "pretty witch" hair. UGH, FLAWLESS. Her voice seems just as good as it was in "Mamma Mia!," so she has obviously been practicing to keep up her brilliant tonality. Anna Kendrick, who unexpectedly had a huge radio hit last year, is quite the singer! Her voice shined as Cinderella and was one of our favorite characters. James Corden, a relative newcomer to us, was also excellent as the Baker, aided in large part by Emily Blunt, his wife, who is also a magnificent singer relatively out of nowhere. All of the other acting is good, but not noteworthy.

What this movie lacked for us was an intriguing story. Sure, the Grimm story details for many characters were added into this movie and were quite dark and different, but the story itself wasn't super compelling to us. The film builds up a lot in the beginning but ends things rather quickly and obviously. Despite the twist in the story, which was never meant to be a secret since many of the actors involved in this project discussed it on talk shows in the weeks leading up to the film's release, the ending of the movie is rather flat, and the journey to get there is a bit arduous and kind of long. I don't really ever yawn a lot during movies, even late night ones, but I remember yawning quite a bit during this film. Really, there's nothing wrong with the technical execution of "Into the Woods." If you're a fan of the play and its music, you will probably like the film better than we did. It all boils down to, at times, a weak script and mediocre music. Visually, it looks good, it is well-shot and directed finely, but these moments of weakness were enough to diminish our liking of it overall.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

No comments:

Post a Comment