Thursday, October 15, 2015
INTO THE WOODS
This adaptation of the Broadway musical by James Lapine, Stephen Sondheim and Jonathan Tunick takes several fairy tale characters -- Jack (and the Beanstalk); Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and the Prince (Chris Pine); Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy); and Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford); etc -- and has them interacting in the same story. The thrust of the first half is the appearance of a witch (Meryl Streep), who tells a childless couple, the Baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt), that the wife will be able to conceive if she and her husband can get the witch certain items by midnight. All seems to end "happily ever after" until the second half, when little Jack (Daniel Huddlestone) and everyone else are threatened by the monstrous appearance of a lady giant (Frances de la Tour), who wants vengeance because Jack caused the death of her husband. As with the play, the first half may seem a little off-putting to viewers what with its various storylines eventually converging, but the second half is more effective. Sondheim's score has a little too much of his repetitive patter-type songs, but there are such fine numbers as "Agony" (beautifully "staged" and well-acted by Pine of Star Trek and Billy Magnussen); the title tune; "No One is Alone:" etc. although I confess I wish they hadn't cut that dirge to Jack's cow, "Farewell Old Friend." All of the performances are excellent, with Streep really delivering on her "Last Midnight" number, and young Huddlestone certainly scoring as Jack. Some supporting roles are filled quite nicely by Tracey Ullman as Jack's mother, and Christine Baranski [Bowfinger] as the wicked stepmother. Johnny Depp isn't bad as the wolf as he sings and dances to "Hello, Little Girl" (but you have to wonder if perhaps the movie eroticses children). Visually arresting throughout. The quasi-religious overtones are a bit sappy at times. Rob Marshall also directed the musical adaptation of Nine.
Verdict: Not for all tastes for sure, but effective, well-acted, and intriguing. ***