Saturday, August 20, 2016
INTO THE WOODS (2014)
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Written By: James Lapine
Based On The Musical, Music & Lyrics By: Stephen Sondheim & James LaPine
Cinematography By: Dion Beebe
Editor: Wyatt Smith
Cast: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Tracy Ullman, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford, Billy Magnussen, Mackenzie Mauzy, Simon Russel Beale
*Please note that some trivia and facts have been republished from imdb among other sources In this review
Into the Woods is a modern twist on the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales in a musical format that follows the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel-all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife, their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch who has put a curse on them.
The Title say's it all
This film is a more mature fairy tale that is inspired by many others and converge ling them so they characters continue to cross paths and effect one another. Only here we see what proceeds the happily ever after. That seems to want to undue the lessons learned from any of these individual tales to more trust in yourself and don't put faith so much in magic and the way things ought to be.
A giant production that is supposed to feel epic, yet feels small. It also seems to lack a more lighthearted touch and playfulness the films seems to seek. Though lets more the darkness take over for it more often.
Meryl Streep steals the show as she is having the most fun out of the cast it seems. As the story revolves around her as the catalyst. One of her more loose performances. Where there is an inherent joy that sometime comes out in her performances in movies such as JULIE & JULIA, STUCK ON YOU and LEMONY SNICKET. Of course more of the ridiculous roles, but she brings merit to it. This film reminds one of LEMONY SNICKET. Though that film was much more visually appealing and accomplished as well as feeling a bit more original. Something this film lacks.
For those expecting Johnny Depp though top billed. He is around only for a brief cameo. Even though it is more advertised as him being an important lynchpin character. He seems more like a big time guest starring day player.
Just as on his talk show James Corden gives an energetic and charming performance. Where he is essentially the lead and manages To make a lot out of the little. As he is the least famous major cast member. Yet the one you will remember other then Mrs. Streep
Though more of a tragedy of sorts the film has a happy ending, but spends way too much time in the dark, dingy surroundings that always look like sets. Which might help the theatricality of the story as well as showcase the art direction and costume design and the morals brought up, but as a vision keep it all small. It's a film more aimed at adults that seems more made for children. While one can appreciate the magnitude of how far they go seemingly in dress up. It only raises the bar for the film to fall. As it isn't filmed as wittingly as written.
I have never seen the Broadway show or know too much about it, but I know the material has been condensed for the running time and storylines shortened and simplified and songs cut.
The songs from the original stage musical that did not make it into the film adaptation are "I Guess This is Goodbye", "Maybe They're Magic", "Our Little World", "First Midnight", "Second Midnight", "Act I Finale: Ever After", "Act II Prologue: So Happy", "Agony (Reprise)" and "No More". Stephen Sondheim also wrote two original songs especially for the film: "Rainbows", which is a duet for Baker and his Wife and another one for the Witch, called "She'll Be Back," neither of which made into the final film.
Overall, the screen adaptation by James Lapine is fairly close to his original stage musical. The only large change is the replacement of the Narrator using the Baker's voice over for the narration. Another noticeable change is the cut of the Mysterious Man, some of whose lines are reassigned to the Witch.
The songs aren't that memorable or strong unfortunately. Which is how the film feels in general. It keeps your interest, while watching but instantly you begin to forget about it after. So that for a highly respected theatrical work it becomes forgettable.
If you are a musical the songs should be your strength next to the choreography. As it is the spine of the film and the reason in which the story is being presented in such a manner and expression itself in that way.
When it comes to director Rob Marshall's direction. The problem here seems to be as the subject matter lends itself to a grandiosity he seems to get lost in presenting the visuals rather then the substance of the story and performances. Usually focused on bad special effects. So that when the actions do happen it feels more part of the story and leaves the audience with no attachment to the characters or events. Even though we know how the story goes.
This is a problem that happens continuously with his productions where his visual flair to familiar stories is riveting as in ANNIE and CHICAGO. Though they lack the emotional strength they should have. Even NINE is beautiful to look at with inspired moments of musical sequences. That seems to continuously fall short.
As this seems more of a comedy then anything else. It has the spirit of a GLEE episode where it has a certain energy of pep and let's put on a show with issues. That while everyone involved is talented it never rises to how good it should be or know it can be.
The film is never boring but you do feel the running time. --This is a film that is meant to be seen on the big screen or a big screen as watching it on a regular television screen seems to shrink it and block any power or strength it might have had.