Anika Goes to the Movies: Into The Woods

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Quick review: 2/5 stars- Um, yeah. Roughly two hours of semi-painful, not really PG rated broadway oddness. Definitely wait for the Redbox or skip entirely. All you are missing is Meryl Streep.

All the spoilers ahead are part of a spoilers union. You don’t want to anger them with comments regarding their presence.

This was awful. I have seen the full video version of the original broadway cast with Bernadette Peters. And that was fun. It was also not for children.

But let’s start with the few redeeming factors. Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, and James Cordon did some excellent acting. And Daniel Huttlestone (you might remember him as Gavroche from Les Miserables in 2012) who played the boy Jack did a fantastic job. The music wasn’t terrible most of the time, though let’s face it Jonny Depp can’t really sing, and Chris Pine lip-syncing himself wasn’t great. Also the cinematography and the CG stuff was lovely. It was visually interesting to say the least, though occasionally claustrophobic since, you know, they are in the woods all the time.

Other than that. . . this is not a PG movie. I had seen the headlines floating around that Disney had seriously tamed this down, and in some respects they did. But they obviously pushed this through to get the audience they wanted. None of the violence is visual or graphic, but people still die and get blinded and have bits of their feet cut off. They cut out Rapunzel’s pregnancy, but not the Prince and the Baker’s Wife’s infidelity. One man, supposedly a good guy, knowingly kisses another man’s wife. And of course, the song where she waxes philosophical about whether or not it was wrong stayed as well. Not sure about y’all, but I usually think of PG as 7yrs and up. There is no way that anyone under the age of 13 should be exposed to the concept of infidelity in a movie, let alone in a fairytale context. (Yes, I understand there are kids in the real world that have to deal with their parent’s immoral choices all the time, and that PG means parental guidance is suggested, but I’m glad I didn’t take my 8 year old with me to the PG Disney movie today, and that should say something.)

Furthermore, the acting styles of the various players just don’t mix. You have Anna Kendrick playing Cinderella with some real sincerity and then Chris Pine is the hokiest prince of all time. The song, “Agony” is agony to watch on the big screen. Jonny Depp’s adaptation of the wolf, while intentionally a mix of woodland and neighborhood predator, is just skin-crawlingly creepy. There is so much about this movie that on the big screen is just uncomfortable rather than comedic.

Marrying a musical to the cinematic screen is a tough business. You either have to give it a definitively “on stage” feel so that the music and the campy theater stuff doesn’t feel out of place, or you have to scrap that and find a way to make the music meld into a film setting. And frankly, the last movie I can think of that did it well was the 2005 version of Rent.

And this is just a personal thing, but I forgot how repetitive the lyrics are in this one. Don’t get me wrong they are rather clever most of the time, but after two hours of awkward disappointment I got a headache from the singsongy style and the word repetition.

I know this film is up for awards. Whatever. It didn’t work for me. It neither did what is was meant to do as the play did, bringing real moral questions to some of these fairytale stories, nor did it mellow enough to be a fun twist on the originals for most of the family.

My overall response to the Christmas movie today: Bah! Humbug!!

But better things are coming I promise. I got The Hundred-Foot Journey on DVD. So next time Anika Goes to the Movies in her living room, there will be a really happy review.

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