Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Into the Woods

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Into_the_Woods_%28film%29
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The Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) have no other wish than to have a child. What they do not know is that the Witch (Meryl Streep) next door has cursed not only their house, but also their ability to conceive an offspring. She offers them a deal: They shall go into the woods to recover the secret ingredients that would help restore her youth and beauty, in exchange for lifting the curse she had cast. They are to bring back to her: a cape as red as blood, worn by Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) who is off to see her grandmother, but eventually ambushed by the Wolf (Johnny Depp); a cow as white as milk, which is tasked to be sold by Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) in a neighboring village; hair as yellow as corn, let down by Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) from above her lonely tower; and a slipper as pure as gold, which Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) wears as she repeatedly runs away from her Prince (Chris Pine). But one’s wish could very well be a curse for another, leading to a short-lived happy ending disturbed by a giant problem caused by each of their selfish desires.

This material is just perfect for an onstage production. The intensity of the musical numbers in an intimate setting would be enough to guarantee a worthwhile experience, no matter how long it is. The thing with film as a medium is that most who subscribe to it have rather short attention spans, and this adaptation could be quite dragging for a non-musical fan. Les Misérables is lucky because it benefits from a setlist that is already popular in the mainstream to begin with. While some of them are catchy, most of the songs in this movie have not really been that well-known to a larger demographic. This means there is not much anticipation, and the unacquainted might simply dismiss them as unnecessary or even self-aggrandizing to some extent.

As for the cast, how could you ever go wrong with Meryl Streep? Every scene in which the Witch appears is an event to watch out for in itself. Everyone just disappears, simply because she is Meryl Streep. Blunt gives an okay performance, although not really something worthy of a Golden Globe nomination. But then again, it’s the Golden Globes. The two kids playing Jack and Little Red Riding Hood are both adorable and annoying when needed be. Kendrick seems to be the new Amanda Seyfried, rising from the ranks of the leading lady’s BFF to find their way in every musical role they could get their hands on. At least they have the voice to justify the casting choice.

What is really noteworthy about this musical is how it offers a dark twist to the fairy tales we grew up with, or at least the popular sugarcoated version we have all gotten used to. Just when everyone gets their very own happy ending, the tables are turned and a big dilemma affecting all of them suddenly arises. And you thought you knew these characters by heart!

Rob Marshall is more of a hit-or-miss director when it comes to musicals. His best work would always be Chicago, which is almost close to perfection. Nine was a big letdown, on the contrary, despite an ensemble of Oscar winners at his disposal. Into the Woods is somewhere in between. It is not as forgettable as Nine, but not as grand as Chicago. All in all, it works, and that is probably all that matters for now. It is a good thing that the North American box office agrees. At least we would be seeing more musicals crossing over from stage to screen in the near future.


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