Friday, December 26, 2014

Into the Woods brews mixed messages for adults and children

Movie:  Into the Woods
PG, 2 hours 5 minutes

Grade: A-

In a Nutshell:  Once upon a time, there was a Broadway musical that Disney remade as a feature film for families. This deconstructed twist on some of the familiar The Brothers Grimm fairy tales is an interesting brew of humor, music, slanted wisdom, dark moments, and unsatisfying endings.  

I had such high hopes for this movie. Two years ago we all laughed and cried and sang to Les Miserables (2012) on Christmas day.  This is definitely no Les Miserables (2012) .  It's not even last year's Frozen .  I wish…

Uplifting Theme:
      ·         Be careful what you wish for.
  •          You are not alone.  No one is alone.
  •          “Careful the tale you tell.  That is the spell.”   That’s good advice for Director Rob Marshall and Stephen Sondheim.

Things I liked:
  •          I’ve always loved Chris Pine and his beautiful blue eyes.  Who knew he could sing too?  In an interview with Anna Kendrick, she said that Chris was very shy about his singing voice.
  •          With very little CGI, the scenery and landscapes in the film are beautiful and feel like fairy tale settings. 
  •            Lilla Crawford, who was FANTASTIC, replaced another girl as Red Riding Hood, after only one week into filming!  Her voice sounded like a real Broadway voice, unlike in this year’s Annie, starring Quvenzhane Wallis.
  •       Some of the lyrics are pretty witty, evoking eager laughter and winces from the audience I sat with.
  •       The story has not one prince, but two, played by Chris Pine and Tony nominee Billy Magnussen.  Their duet together is hilarious.
  •        Anna Kendrick does a great job as Cinderella and will soon grace the big screen again in Pitch Perfect 2.  I have high hopes for that movie too.

Things I didn’t like:
      ·         For a Disney musical, the ending was a downer.  It had a dark satire like Sondheim's style in 
            the incredibly disgusting Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street .
      ·         The messages in the songs are mixed.  Life is full of moral dilemmas and so is this story.
  •      None of the melodies are very memorable.  I do remember they sang "Into the Woods!" a lot.  ha ha  Quite a few songs from the original musical were cut from the movie.
  •     Several people die horrible deaths.  It’s not an innocent movie for children and is very dark in spots.   Jack’s mother smacks him often and the audience gasped each time.  Cinderella’s step-sister smacks her.  Red Riding Hood stomps on the baker’s foot.  There are some gruesome moments, but I won’t give you any spoiler alerts….just a head’s up for parents.
  •   Johnny Depp's role is way too short. I would have liked to see Christine Baranski sing more as well.  She and Meryl Streep created a fun spark together in Mamma Mia! The Movie

Funny lines:
·         “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” – Cinderella’s Prince   (The audience booed when he said that.)
·         “I wish my house were not a mess.”  - Jack’s mother (Tracey Ullman)  Me too, Tracey.  Me too.
·         “Perhaps it’ll take two of us to have this child.” – Baker
·         “This is ridiculous!  What am I doing here?  I’m in the wrong story!” – Baker’s wife
·         “I’ll gladly help you with your house.  There are times I actually enjoy cleaning.” – Cinderella

Interesting tidbits:
  •  Director Rob Marshall almost chose some of the actresses he had already worked with for the role as the witch, such as Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago), Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman, and Penelope Cruz.  Can you believe he didn’t pick Idina Menzel?  Still, Meryl Streep did a great job.
  •    You may have recognized the young boy who played Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) from Les Miserables (2012) .
  •  James Corden plays the baker.  He begins hosting his new talk-show in just a month.
  • In the original musical, there was a role of narrator.  Some big names were considered for this part as well: James Earl Jones, John Cleese, Alan Rickman, Christopher Plummer, and even Disney favorites Julie Andrews and Angela Lansbury!
  • Emily Blunt, who is warm and charming as a baker’s wife who can’t bare children, was actually pregnant during the filming!  You can notice her baby bump in one of her later scenes with Cinderella's Prince.
  • You might also have recognized one of Cinderella’s step-sisters, Lucy Punch.  This is her 4th time playing this role: Ella Enchanted [HD] , Cinderella 2000, and a BBC version of Cinderella.
  •  Emily Blunt (the baker’s wife) and Meryl Streep (the witch) also starred together in The Devil Wears Prada .

Tips for Parents:  There are several themes that are too adult for young children, even though this is a Disney production.  There is some violence and morbid scenes.

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