I finally watched Into the Woods with some friends (which is exactly how Into the Woods ought to be watched).*
Introduction: Into the Woods is a musical/operetta that takes several old folktales (Cinderella, Jack the Giant Killer, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood) and combines them. A new tale about a childless baker is added, which provides the means of bringing all the other tales together. But this isn't a simple amalgamation - the story turns the fairy tales on their heads a little, as Cinderella doesn't seem too thrilled with the idea of marrying the prince, Jack's pretty much a budding kleptomaniac, and Red Riding Hood is a bit obnoxious.
My Review: This musical is a lot of fun, especially if you enjoy tongue-in-cheek humor. The basic story of the baker and his wife and the witch is pretty great, and I love how they run across the folktale characters. It's a lark.
The music is well-performed, but that's about all I can say about it. Other than the few notes of the main "Into the Woods" theme, it is utterly forgettable.
The casting for this film was great. Meryl Streep is good in everything, but she makes an awesome witch. She handles the more absurd aspects of her character's story very well, indeed. Emily Blunt makes a lovely and fun baker's wife. James Corden plays the baker and was a great choice - he's as lovable here as he is in Doctor Who, and he avoids re-playing Craig. Anna Kendrick is a surprising Cinderella. She's a bit of an annoying character at first, but Kendrick plays her likably and makes a successful transition after the wedding scene to a more interesting character. Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen are brilliant princes. Their duet was the funniest part of the movie. Completing the main fairytale cast are Mackenzie Mauzy as a believable Rapunzel, Johnny Depp as a very disturbing Wolf, Lilla Crawford as a delightfully irritating Red Riding Hood, and Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche. I mean, Jack. Seriously, though, he did a great job in both movies.
It's easy to see why high schools tend to end their performances at the 'happily ever after' scene - it's a great place to stop and would've made a fun movie right there. But no, Sondheim and Lapine had to push it. What follows is a sometimes fun, sometimes strange after-story, dealing with the consequences of infidelity in a delightfully fairytale manner, the futility of playing the blame game, and ending with the morally questionable song about the nature of what is right.
It's an odd film, to be sure. You absolutely cannot take it seriously. The story has a few elements to it that I didn't particularly care for, and the music is forgettable, but the story is very creative, and I think they did a great job making an entertaining movie.
Release date: 2014
Run time: 125 minutes
Director: Rob Marshall
My Rating: 3.5 stars
*Seriously, it'll be way more fun than watching it by yourself.