Monday, January 5, 2015

Theatrical Review: Into the Woods

Date: Sunday. January 4. 2015

Time: 1:40 pm
Location: Cinemark Theater in Stroud Mall
Party: 2 (my mom & I)
Director: Rob Marshall (of "Chicago" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" fame)
Type: Stephen Sondheim Musical of Fairytale-retellings
The Baker- James Corden
The Baker's wife- Emily Blunt
The Witch- Meryl Streep
Jack- Daniel Huttlestone
Jack's mother- Tracey Ullman
Cinderella- Anna Kendrick
Wicked Stepmother- Christine Baranski
Florinda- Tammy Blanchard
Lucinda- Lucy Punch
Red Riding Hood- Lilla Crawford
Cinderella's Prince- Chris Pine
Rapunzel's Prince- Billy Magnussen
Rapunzel- Mackenzie Munzy
The Wolf- Johnny Depp
The Giant- Frances De La Tour
Duration: 125 (+6 trailers)
Opening RemarksIt always seems like whenever we go to the mall to see a movie, it's a full house. Luckily we found a couple seats towards the back so we weren't in close range like we were with "The Judge" back in October.
Another great lively audience where laughs were in all the right places and there were even a few gasps. Possibly some tears (but that might have just been me 3-4 times).It feels only right to have a Broadway vs. Movie entry comparing this rendition of the show to the stage show starring Bernadette Peters as The Witch. But that's another time.

And like with "The Judge," we had a lot of trailers. Six to be exact.
1) The Minions (of "Despicable ME" fame) get their own spin-off... apparently their life's mission is to follow the most despicable being on the planet, with some unfortunately hilarious results... something tells me all these sheningans with the T-Rex, Napoleon and Dracula all happen within the first 10 minutes of the movie... either way, it was hilarious and may be worth seeing.

2) Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2- when I heard this was one of the movies/scripts leaked by the Sony hack, I thought they were kidding... who would be stupid enough to make a sequel out of this movie? Never saw the original and don't plan on seeing this. I'd sooner waste my money on "The Wedding Ringer," which looks conceivably funny compared to this... the trailer did it a favor, but we all kinda know how the reviews will pan out

3) The Age of Adaline- saw this trailer a few movies ago... I'm still not convinced this "eternal youth" cliché can be salvaged with Blake Lively of all people...

4) The Longest Ride- right away, I knew I smelled a Nicholas Sparks movie coming on- conceptually, it is intriguing. We have a young couple (the boy fancies bull-ridin') who comes across a car accident. They learn from the man inside about his life's story, particularly his own love story. We start to see parallels between the two, particularly where the girl breaks it off with the guy because he's taking too many risks.

5) Tomorrowland- a teaser trailer, really- a girl who just got out of Juvie gets her things but doesn't recognize a button. When she touches it, she's transported into a cornfield that the narrator explains is "another tomorrow"... considering it was Disney, I knew then it was the "Tomorrowland" movie they'd been planning for a couple years.

Not sure how much George Clooney screentime it'll have, but obviously he's there to give it some credibility :P

6) Cinderella- of course this is the perfect tie-in :P I hadn't seen "Maleficent" yet but since I'd already seen plenty of fairytale retellings in recent years, I most likely will see this one too... and begrudge all the changes and differences along the way.

Personal History:

This was the high school musical we did during my senior year. It was probably the year I begrudged the most for a number of reasons.
One of those was the fact there'd be no company in "Into the Woods." I either had to get a role or be forced to view it as an audience member.

I auditioned for Cinderella and thought I had a great audition. Yet I didn't even get a callback, something I will forever believe came down to the fact I didn't deliver "On the Steps of the Palace" with the right attitude. How was I to know without seeing it that it was meant to be sarcastic and flighty?

My mom and I went to see it on the night my friend Drew was playing The Baker.

The Story:

Once upon a time, in a far-off kingdom, there was a childless baker and his wife, Cinderella and Jack and his mother. All of these characters wished for different things. The baker and his wife wanted a baby. Cinderella wanted to go to the ball. Jack wanted adventure and his mother wanted him to sell the cow because she no longer gave milk. We also meet Little Red Riding Hood who visits the Baker's house for bread to bring her sick grandmother.

The most elaborate story comes with The Baker and his wife. The witch pays them a visit asking if they wish to reverse the curse she'd placed on their house. Supposedly, she'd done it after The Baker's father stole from her garden for his wife, and taking their 2nd child (who became Rapunzel).

The items required for this potion include:
  • cow as white as milk
  • cape as red as blood
  • hair as yellow as corn
  • slipper as pure as gold
and they ultimately get these items from our other well-known fairytale characters.

They trade the cow from Jack for some magic beans.
Red Riding Hood runs into the wolf in the woods, gets eaten by him at granny's and The Baker saves them both.

Cinderella goes to the festival each of the three nights and each time she runs away... for whatever reason, I guess because she isn't sure if she wants to be with him or stay in her current miserable life with her stepmother and stepsisters.

Meanwhile, one Prince pursues Cinderella and the other discovers Rapunzel.

Soon enough, everyone gets their happy ending, leaving the final third of the movie to explain what happens after the "happily ever after."

Casting News:

Other than some of the edits/exclusions and the fact it got a PG rating (when a PG13 would have been warranted... don't get me started on why G-rated movies are a dying breed), the biggest grievance following "Into The Woods" was casting Sophie Grace as Red Riding Hood.
Lilla Crawford (who apparently played "Annie" on Broadway) came in a week after filming because Sophie Grace's parents decided she was too young to play the role.

Really dodged bullet with that one... lots of people were threatening to boycott if she was in this movie...I doubt I would have, but this recasting is a HUGE relief... Sophie Grace and Rosie have to outgrow those princess outfits some time...Another recasting I completely forgot about involved Rapunzel's prince... originally, he was to be played by Jake Gyllenhaal as Cinderella's prince... but Jake pulled out in favor of "Nighcrawler" (might be a good thing, it got plenty of accolades).


Tread Lightly, Spoilers Ahead
While I'm not sure if the Golden Globe nominations are completely warranted, all of the actors did a great job in this. The only singing voice I kinda took issue with was Chris Pine... but then, I take a lot of issue with his character.
Ironically, I kept casting his interviews on the talks shows :P

I should take a quick moment to address Johnny Depp. Yeah, The Wolf is a creepy character. His solo number "Hello Little Girl" had some innuendos (those that verged on pedophilia) edited out. And it's ridiculous to mention him in all the trailers when we know he gets killed early into the movie.
But I was having major "Sweeny Todd" flashbacks hearing him sing again... kinda funny his next onscreen singing gig is for another Sondheim musical.

Meryl Streep, again, I will mention was cast to give this movie credibility... and also give the Academy another excuse to nominate her (I swear, who've is behind her getting these nominated roles, they need to give RDJ some of that mojo)...
But I was much more pleased with her as The Witch than I was with her in "Mamma Mia." The vocal range fit her much better here. She played a pretty good baddie, not to mention an unhinged one when the moments called for it.

...maybe that's worth a Broadway vs. Hollywood entry as well...

I also considered that Christine Baranski was cast because of her Meryl Streep connection (they did "Mamma Mia" together). But she'd also worked with Rob Marshall before on "Chicago." Either way, she played a good wicked stepmother, however much screentime she got.

I couldn't help but wonder if Lucy Punch is suffering from the cruel Hollywood joke of typecasting. I saw her as an evil stepsister in "Ella Enchanted." Which made her comeuppance (along with her sister's) even sweeter.
And between this and "Harry Potter," you'd think Frances De La Tour was typecast as a giant (even stranger is the fact she's only 5' 7"... taller than I am, but I wouldn't think that's enough to warrant two goes as a giant).

One nitpick I had before seeing the movie was the casting of The Baker. I kept asking myself why they didn't cast someone I'd at least heard of. James Corden isn't a newbie to the acting scene, but he's not one I knew before this. I'm still not entirely convinced he stood out compared to all of the strong female presences, but I was pleased with his performance. Not a bad singing voice either.

Daniel Huttlestone is clearly gifted for musicals. This is his second role after "Les Miserables" (where he played the young boy, Gavroche). He played a great Jack.

Mackenzie Mauzy, who plays Rapunzel, has a lot of soap opera credits to her name. And she also played the former girlfriend of the protagonist in "Forever"... she has a great range, which is required of this role, but she isn't given a lot of material to work with as far as making this character three-dimensional.
But I did choked in two of her scenes. The aftermath of The Witch's solo "Stay with me" and when she reunites with her prince and her tears gave him back his sight. Especially during the latter because it was a beautiful moment.

Which just leaves the two leading ladies on the side of good.
Emily Blunt, I'd always enjoyed on screen and this is no exception. Great voice, has a lot of heart and she had great chemistry with James Corden.
During her final appearance, which was a bittersweet moment in the show (between her circumstances and the fact it was towards the very end), I got very teary-eyed.
Maybe that alone IS enough to earn her that Golden Globe nomination.

The moment Anna Kendrick was cast as Cinderella was the moment I decided I HAD to see this movie... next to the fact it was our high school musical, of course.
Her vocal range was REALLY put to the test and she passed with flying colors. She wasn't just an active Cinderella who trekked into the woods to go to the festival, but she portrays her as someone all young women can relate to... one that can talk to birds, but nonetheless... she finds a way out of her circumstances at home and even chooses her own happiness over the prince in the end.

Other highlights and lowlights

Probably the biggest lowlight for me... going back to Cinderella's Prince... I really did not like him... the reason by he cheated on Cinderella was never fully explained... he just felt like messing around with another woman in the woods... who happens to be The Baker's wife.

But to add to that, the "Agony" number between the Princes. Too bad you can't nominate scenes from movies for Razzies because that was terrible :P It looked like something out of a cheesy perfume commercial. Splashing around in a creek, ripping open their shirts as if put their raging hormones on display for us to perceive beyond their voices.
The whole theater roared with laughter, something I doubt was the intention.

The only other big negative I can derive, while keeping my feelings about the original out of the argument, is that the final act felt rushed... it got really dark really quickly (another reason why that PG13 rating would have been a good time).

Considering the vastness of the woods, this is definitely something worth seeing on the big screen. And when the giant is on the loose in the final third of the movie... you felt the tremors, making those scenes all the more intimidating and startling.

Speaking briefly about the production I'm well versed with, I was concerned that the blatant sarcasm would be lost in the translation from the stage to the screen... on most accounts, I was not disappointed. Emily Blunt could have put more effort into the line "I pulled it [it being the yellow hair for the spell] from a girl in a tower," but Lilla Crawford played Red Riding Hood with the right amount of sarcasm required for that character.
Clearly, everyone in the theater had fun with this movie and periodically, that showed.
Whether you know the play or not, I'd absolutely recommend going out to theaters to see this one for the overall experience.

Grade: A

1 comment:

Arlee Bird said...

I haven't been to a movie at a theater in years. Now I'm satisfied to wait to see them in my own living room--much more comfortable.

Don't know if I'll see this one. I don't feel particularly compelled to do so. I do like musicals, however my wife usually doesn't care for them so seeing this is questionable in my future. I'd probably enjoy it though so who knows.

Tossing It Out