Into the Woods (2014): A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.
Before I start this review, I should mention that I saw this movie at the fantastic El Capitan in Hollywood. The El Capitan is owned by Disney, and they put a lot of money into ensuring that the movie experience was one of the best I’ve ever had. Into the Woods is a Disney movie. While I do not believe that has influenced my review in any way, I do want to make that known to you, the reader. If you feel that this creates a conflict of interest, then you are absolutely entitled to ignore my review. I won’t feel bad I promise. Up to you. Anyway…
So this movie is…interesting. Its source material is a bold undertaking as it mashes five classic fairy tales into one giant musical in the woods. (WHOA IN THE WOODS???) Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Giant Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood all get featured in this musical. And for the most part this movie stays loyal to its source material. With two major exceptions. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are both left in the dust in this movie, likely per corporate directive. While personally I did not miss these two stories as much as others might, those who want to see those stories meshed in here will be sorely disappointed. However, my biggest issue with this movie involves what happens after happily ever after, aka the third act. Hey! We have yet another third act screwup! Woot woot! I’ll get into that in a bit. That said, this is still a good movie. But that’s all it is. Good. So, let’s jump into it yes?
So, let’s talk about what the movie does right. It’s a musical, surprise surprise, and guess what? The music is awesome. To watch Annie just a few weeks back and see how terrible that movie was, it is really nice to see a musical done right. All the actors can sing well, thank GOD. With the exception of Chris Pine, but fortunately he knows he cant sing so he makes up for it by overacting the crap out of his role. But here it is very welcome because he is ridiculous and he knows he’s ridiculous. He’s just having fun! That’s when overacting is acceptable. Actually that’s the thing with most of these actors: they are having an absolute blast with their roles. Meryl Streep is absolutely having the time of his life in this movie, and it is great to watch. But above all of that, yes above the legendary Meryl Streep, we have Emily Blunt. Finally. This is the role that will blow her into the mainstream of Hollywood. She blew me away as the Baker’s Wife, from her phenomenal voice to her phenomenal acting while singing, Blunt just shocked even me, one of her biggest fans, and put in one of the best acting performances I’ve seen all year. While it likely won’t be nominated for anything, (especially over Meryl Streep) and it likely won’t make my top ten performances of the year, Blunt will be remembered for this performance for years to come when we see here become a staple A-lister in Hollywood. You heard it here first, folks.
Let’s see what else does this movie do right? Um…the first two acts are great, story wise. The writing is excellent, thanks to the source material. The musical and movie does a great job mashing the stories of Cinderella, Jack and the Giant Beanstalk, and Red Riding Hood together with the witch of Snow White. Until happily ever after. Then corporate directive takes the day.
Here’s the main problem with the third act. The story gets so scattershot as the movie delves away from the musical in order to avoid the adult themes brought up in it because, you know, this is a Disney movie. We can’t talk about anything adult-related. We can’t set up a love story between Riding Hood and Jack because they’re young! And the idea of young people having feelings for each other is…oh no we can’t have that! Absolutely not. Additionally, Lilla Crawford, who played Riding Hood sucks. She couldn't sing, and she couldn't act. But it’s ok! Not the end of the world to see a child actor who can’t act. Jack is ok, but he was faaaaar better in Les Miserables. Oh ya. Look up who he is in Les Mis and you’ll get a kick out of it. Promise! I’ll even leave it up to you as a surprise. Another thing going on here is that the movie never really gives you any understanding of just how big these woods that they are in actually are. Characters run into each other left and right, but yet it still takes hours to walk from one spot to the other? There was absolutely no sense of direction whatsoever. But ya, that’s basically it. The movie is good, but because of a very scattershot third act that has too many things happening at once as the movie becomes too big for its own good keeps it from being great. That’s all I got. If you don’t like it, too bad. I still love you. I will always love you. AND IIIIIIIIIIII WILLL ALWAYS LOVE YOUUUUUUU. I’m….I’m sorry about that.
The Critique: A good musical that sadly becomes too big for its own good as corporate runs its hands over the final act. Emily Blunt shines, though.
The Recommendation: If you like musicals, check this one out. It is probably the best musical of 2014. Also if you like these stories check it out too.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
Oscar Talk: Here’s another negative: while the music is good, there is no outstanding single. There is no Let It Go. There is no Skyfall. So, while I’m sure some song will be nominated for Original Song, it is not a sure-thing for this movie, despite being the best musical of the year. However I foresee nods for both original song and score. I also predict a nod for costumes at least. The costumes were amazing. Some of the best I’ve seen all year.
EDIT: WOW. No music at all. But I was right on the costumes! 1/2 right? In baseball terms I'd be a legend!
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