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Friday, December 19, 2014

Movie Review: Into The Woods

One of my favorite musicals is coming to the big screen in a major way. The musical adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Into The Woods opens in theaters on Christmas Day.

There have been several false starts by other directors, but this time, Director Rob Marshall is the right person to bring this musical to life on film. After all, Marshall was the director of the Best Picture Oscar winner Chicago, the last musical to bring home the Academy's top prize.
Right from the opening number, which sets up the tale of why all of our characters are venturing forth Into The Woods, we are off on an epic journey.

The musical follows the classic fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and The Beanstalk and Rapunzel all weaved together with an original tale of a baker and his wife who are trying to have a child and a witch who has placed a curse on them.
Many times when a musical comes to the screen, the director chooses to space the songs and scenes differently than the stage blocking and that takes away from the story's stage roots. For instance, instead of allowing a character to sing their solo, the director has that character move around in the world around them, Or instead of having what amounts to a wide shot like on the stage, the director uses the close-up for the film. But Marshall knows when to let the big songs just break free and when to focus on the drama. This allows for a great transition between the darkness of the story as well as the magic.
The movie is superbly acted and moves along swiftly. If a film deserves a win for best ensemble it is this film. This cast supports one another. If there is a lead, then it is James Corden, who plays the Baker, along with his wife, who is played to perfection by Emily Blunt. Meryl Streep is a shoe-in for her 19th Oscar nomination, but this time for a supporting role as the witch. Chris Pine and Anna Kendrick are solid here as well. I had no idea that Chris Pine can sing! Plus, you will fall in love with Lillia Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood and Daniel Huttlestone who plays Jack. Johnny Depp is the wolf, but is only in the movie for a few minutes, but he does sing one of the darkest songs in the entire musical.
I was worried that this movie would not remain as dark as the stage show but Disney allowed this film to retain much of its darker tones. There are some creative changes but I think fans of the stage show will agree that this film plays out to the audience.
I expect Into The Woods to rack up the nominations come award season. Spectacular performances combined with stunning sets and costumes make this the musical, no, the film of the holiday season!

How does this all end? Will there be a happy ending for everyone involved? Well, in order to find out, you must venture Into The Woods!

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