Friday, December 26, 2014
Into the Woods 
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RE.com (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review
Into the Woods  (directed by Rob Marshall, screenplay by James Lapine [IMDb], based on the stage musical by Stephen Sondheim [IMDb] and James Lapine [IMDb] which combines a number of Grimm's Fairytales into generally pleasing "soup") makes for a rather safe family-oriented movie to go see this "Holiday season." I write "Holiday" rather than "Christmas Season" because the film is certainly (and certainly intentionally) a "religion-free zone." On the other hand, this is a film that will certainly offend almost no one. Hence, it's SAFE but also ... FUN.
Certainly Meryl Streep must have had a blast playing the story's Witch, who, since she was cursed (for reason(s) unclear) by her mother to "lifelong ugliness" turned around and cursed her neighbors' home inhabited by a lovely, mild-mannered "Baker" couple played by James Corden and Emily Blunt rendering the couple childless. Mind you, the "Witch" had nothing in particular against the "Baker couple." It was just that _her life_ was "cursed," so why shouldn't theirs be as well ;-/.
So ... near the beginning of the film, Witch cheerfully tells them (again, she doesn't have any particular resentment against them ...) what THEY need to do TO HELP HER remove the curse that was PLACED ON HER, and ... in return she'd then cheerfully remove the curse AGAINST THEM. (In truth, the story's kinda about "cheerful" "Fairytale blackmail" or even "Fairytale terrorism" ... The Witch was unhappy and so long as she was unhappy the lovely / innocent people next door were rendered unhappy as well...)
What did they have to do? They had to bring to the Witch four items: A cape "as red as blood," a cow "as white as milk," hair "as yellow as corn," and a shoe "as pure as gold." Since their village was "small" they had to leave their little village "INTO THE WOODS" to search / find these items.
And .... in those "woods" (strange, outside of their normal day-to-day experience) ... they run into ... hmmm ... Little Red Riding Hood (played amusingly by Lila Crawford), a little boy named Jack (played by Daniel Huttlestone) taking his mother's cow to market, long/blonde haired Rapunzel (played by Mackenzie Mauzy) locked-up in a lonely tower, and a not particularly "decisive" Cinderella (played by Anna Kendrick) who has a hard time deciding if she really wants to become Prince Charming's (played by Chris Pine) wife (It turns out later that her intuitive cautiousness was quite justified ... ;-)
So ... "the ingredients" are all there, but nothing is that easy: It turns out Little Red Riding Hood's kinda a brat ;-), Jack wants to be paid, Repunzel has need for that hair, and Cinderella, poor Cinderella, has the above mentioned affliction of not being able to make-up her mind. So ... much has to ensue ... and it does. And even after everything would seem to be resolved, well ... there's at least one more act to go ;-).
So ... this is a pleasant and often quite funny revisiting of some of the Grimm's Fairytales that many/most of us would remember from our younger days. Probably the show-stopper tune in the film is "Agony" sung by Cinderella's Prince Charming and Rapunzel's beau (played by Billy Magnusen) complaining how "difficult" it is to be a "privileged prince" ;-). Then Meryl Streep's unhappy but quite powerful witch has fun "unhelpfully" appearing and disappearing again throughout the story, "helping" to make the other characters in the story "unhappy" because, well, she's unhappy. Many of us have friends, neighbors and/or relatives like that ;-).
So ... while this movie could have been released pretty much any time during the year, it's NOT A BAD ONE to go to now if the relatives are over (especially with little ones) and you don't know quite what to do with them anymore ;-).
I'd also add that part of the film's charm is that though it is a movie, set often outdoors, it's quite "stagey" (and IMHO _intentionally_ so). So I'm sure that plenty of high school drama coaches will be scratching their heads as they watch the film, saying to themselves "Hey, WE could do this. And wouldn't this musical be a blast to put on stage at our school in a year or two...."
So all in all, one can't really go wrong with this film. Good job folks, good job ;-)
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