Wednesday, December 24, 2014
'Into the Woods' and Over a Cliff
It's never a good sign when a super long movie ends, and you check your watch to see how many hours you've spent at the theater and...it's only been two hours. TWO. HOURS. I thought that surely after watching Disney's INTO THE WOODS, at least three hours of my life had been taken from me unjustly. Not because it's a completely awful movie; it has its moments. But somewhere along each character's traipse through the foreboding forest, the story just loses its way.
As a Disney lover and fan of musicals, this is super disappointing for me to even write. But, if anything, the film brought us a Meryl Streep/Emily Blunt reunion and that's never a bad thing. In fact, these two are in some of my favorite scenes in the movie. But even Streep's badass blue/grey hair, divine singing pipes and Miranda Priestley-esque sass isn't enough to keep you fully immersed in the aimlessly intertwining plot. The film starts off promising enough, though with a big music intro that intersects each of the storylines: Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) is notoriously dissed by her stepmother (the marvelous Christine Baranski) and her awful stepsisters (Tammy Blanchard and Lucy Punch); the ever amazing Tracey Ullman as the mother of Jack (as in "and the Beanstalk") fusses with her son (Daniel Huttlestone) as she smacks his little head in perfect step with the song (oh, musicals...); the Baker and his wife (James Corden and Blunt) are ambushed in their little shop by one sneaky Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) who snatches up several warm baked goods as she dashes away to Granny's house; and the Witch (Streep) warns the Baker and his wife that they will be cursed with infertility forever if they don't do as she says. Each of these characters meets in the treacherous woods where all the sh*t goes down (and later where the film falls completely off its axis). Plus, Johnny Depp as the big bad Wolf, because of course.
This is a lot to give us within the first few minutes of the film, and we haven't even gotten to the Rapunzel storyline yet (but that's okay, because that just sorta dangles throughout the entire film, with no real place). Oh, and there's a randomly hilarious scene between Rapunzel and Cinderella's princes (Billy Magnussen and Chris Pine) that I suppose is there to reinforce the film's cheeky tone and how "oh look, I can make fun of myself" each character is. But it's really just a a music video within a music video (kinda like an intermission in a film that seems already far too long).
As I mentioned before, though, there are good moments in INTO THE WOODS. Like, pretty much every scene with Blunt, who's so delightful to watch and does the most with the off-the-rails script she's given. And you can just tell Streep is enjoying herself as the evil villain who can appreciate a great music break (wicked witches, they're just like us!). The younger cast is adorable and far clever in their interpretations of the characters than you'd expect. But, man, this film is just so hollow. The fact that the story (or stories, rather) is stretched so thin doesn't allow any breathing room for any of the characters. There are moments tacked on just for the sake of having them included in this fairy tale satire (?), which doesn't really have a lesson or a takeaway considering it's a family film. (And I never really thought I was the type to care much about that kind of thing, but this film needs something to cling. It's got nothing). A real shame, too, because director Rob Marshall hasn't had a real hit since Memoirs of a Geisha in 2005.
Besides how dolled up and theatrical the whole production is (in some ways appropriate, in other ways strange), can we talk about how downright silly it is? I'm not the only one who feels this way. Streep said it too, in her reaction statement to her clearly contractual Golden Globe nomination: "Into the Woods'? I thought that was just a Halloween party?" I mean, basically that is what it is. Can we even take this film seriously? Should we?
Rating: C- (** out of *****)
INTO THE WOODS is in theaters December 25th.