Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Movie Review: Into the Woods (2014)

Into the Woods is Disney's cinematic take on a Broadway musical from the eighties. It's a camp-tastic extravaganza with over-the-top performances that had me clapping like a sea lion. It starts out lighthearted and cheery and then transforms into a somber lesson about wishes, stories, and children. For the most part, it stays true to the original musical, although the movie is so laden with CGI that I wonder how a stage production managed all the story's explosive numbers.

The plot revolves around the Baker (James Corden) and the Baker's Wife (Emily Blunt), who are sent on a quest by The Witch (Meryl Streep) to lift their curse of childlessness. Their journey into the woods sends them on a collision course with the most popular Grimm fairy tale characters: Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy). Along the way, the characters screw each other over, learn lessons and change accordingly, and of course, sing all about it.

The songs are a joy to listen to--all the actors can sing, even Chris Pine (!), who absolutely crushed it as Prince Charming belting out "Agony," a shirt-ripping performance that is now the gold standard for all camp. Meanwhile, "Hello Little Girl" by the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp) is creepy and disturbing, with shades of pedophilia as opposed to, y'know, the relationship between predator and prey. ...OH I GET IT NOW.

Meryl Streep classes up the joint and, as expected, steals the show with her booming vocals and her interpretation of the story's antagonist, alternating between crazed, imperious, and motherly. All her songs are wonderful, imbued with the character's complexities: "Stay With Me," an overprotective parent's plea to her child, is both sympathetic and terrifying, while "Witch's Lament" and "Last Midnight" show the character's fury and bitterness.

Anna Kendrick, who is my spirit animal, is an effective soprano; James Corden has a beautiful, gentle voice that perfectly complements his earnest character; and the two kids are great singers. All four are wonderful in "Your Fault" and "No One is Alone." Emily Blunt does a great job, especially with "Moments in the Woods," a metaphysical and metaphorical realization of what the woods mean and how they fit into life's journey. That was preceded by a duet with Chris Pine, "Any Moment," which had our group in hysterics.

The melodies are terrific, especially the final coda. I've been listening to the full soundtrack on repeat all day. Why didn't we do this musical in Zobel? I would've been smashing as a wicked stepsister, or the beloved cow.

Trivia: Emily Blunt was pregnant during filming, which I found out after watching, but during the film I did think to myself that she was wearing awfully frumpy clothes. The last Emily Blunt movie I'd seen was The Edge of Tomorrow, where she played The Full Metal Bitch and kept repeating the sexiest and most intimidating downward dog in the history of Akilyarepeatedly Yoga. So I was like, "Well, I guess she's a Baker's Wife, she doesn't need to be in fitted clothes." But now it all becomes clear! Incidentally, she claims Meryl Streep was looking out for her so she could go on bathroom breaks, which sounds like my dream.

And now for what sucks about Into the Woods: the Rapunzel thread. I shan't spoil anything (much), but the filmmaker's decision to stray from the events of the musical takes away from the impact of the second act. Also, the sound stage was practically its own character, it was so obvious. The woods in Maleficent were more believable.

And thus ends my bellyaching! If you don't watch this musical extravaganza, at least watch Blunt, Kendrick, and Streep being charming as hell on Ellen.

TL; DR: Thumbs up, and jazz hands, too!

This post brought to you by apples! One a day keeps the doctor away, and so does the discrepancy between Medicare payments to physicians and rising medical practice costs!

The more you know!