Thursday, December 25, 2014

Into the Woods Movie Review

James Corden & Meryl Streep (r) star in Into the Woods

A Merry Walk in the Woods
by Susan Barocas (Contributing Editor)

When was the last time you went to the movies, and the audience broke into applause and cheers several times during and after the film? It’s been a long time for me; so when I say go see Into the Woods and get ready to have some fun, I mean it.

Like every good fairy tale, this is a story that starts with wishes and quests. A baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are sadly childless as the result of a curse by a once-beautiful witch (Meryl Streep). She lets them know that in three days, when there will be a once-in-a-hundred years blue moon, the curse can be reversed - and the witch’s beauty restored... if the couple brings her a blood-red cape, milk-white cow, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper of gold. So the would-be parents set off into the forest to find these items, where they just happen to meet... Cinderella, Jack of the Beanstalk story, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel in a mash-up, re-imagining and twisting of some of our favorite fairy tales.

Now, anyone who knows their fairy tales at all, knows we’re heading for “happily ever after.” And just when you think you’re there... Well, I won’t spoil if for you: Let’s just say, we get a far more satisfying ending.

Based on the Tony Award-winning musical that premiered on Broadway in 1987, the film is deftly directed by Rob Marshall, originally a theater director who has done a few other big films including the very well-received Annie (1999) and Chicago (2002). Marshall embraces cinema in all its glory - action, sound, light, color, energy - and still keeps the almost-over-the-top scenes from going too far.

Not having seen the Broadway version, I don’t know how much the scripts vary; but this film version is sassy with terrific comedic touches. One of the biggest highlights two princes (hunky Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen) singing and splashing through a waterfall. Don't go out for popcorn during this scene; or you’ll miss nearly falling off your seat with laughter

There’s something especially delicious in playing an evil character, and Streep as the witch, Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf and Christine Baranski as Cinderella’s stepmother totally inhabit their parts with such relish - it’s a joy to watch them having so much fun, being so evil. The entire cast does their parts well and there are some big, BIG voices.

There are also some big emotions and some very real human feelings at play here... like protecting your child from a dangerous world, daring to explore outside your comfort zone or finding out what truly makes you happy.

For nearly two hours, this film delivers happiness in the form of good entertainment and fun. I wish more Hollywood films were this satisfying.

Grade: B+