Review: Into the Woods
Into The Woods, one of the most anticipated musical-turned-movies of the year, is helmed by Rob Marshall. At times, Marshall gets his musicals right, and sometimes he doesn’t. With Woods, he strikes the balance right on its head.
Woods has many themes and motives, but never comes close to concluding them cohesively (see 2009’s Nine). However, it nails the gusto, pathos and gravitas similar to Marshall’s previous tour de force Chicago , even if the symbolism and analogies in the film are lost on most of the audience.
Marshall has clearly rounded up the best of Hollywood who can sing. This is 1 star-studded cast orchestrated with major film nominations in mind.
Meryl Streep mesmerizes in each frame as a ghastly, scowling creature who forces a baker couple to find a red cloak, a golden slipper, a white cow and a lock of yellow hair, which will return her beauty and reverse the curse of childlessness upon them.
Streep’s weapon of choice is her versatility, as she takes on different elements of the Oscar-nominated personas cultivated in her body of work, and integrates them into her own interpretation of the witch. That interpretation has the cold-shouldered intimidation of Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, the sprightly demeanor of Donna Carmichael in Mamma Mia and the steely determination of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
The film’s CGI honchos deserve all the credit, if the wonders worked on her already elegant countenance are anything to go by.
Doe-eyed Emily Blunt lends her characteristic English-rose charm without so much of an accent for her portrayal of a long-suffering childless woman, which is earnest and endearing. She is a stable pillar of support to her husband (James Corden), who doubts himself far too often, and for no good reason.
Anna Kendrick is proving to be one of the most promising actresses of this age. Flexing her vocal chops as Beca in Pitch Perfect (and its sequel), it seems like a Broadway role might be on the horizon.
The almost-perverse Mr Wolf, was alas mostly forgettable, a first for a character played by Johnny Depp. The role would have been adeptly played by any actor, seeing how perfunctory it was. They might as well have thrown in Helena Bonham Carter to play Little Red Riding Hood’s (Lilla Crawford) grandmother.
Christine Baranski, who is no stranger to musicals (she was one of Streep’s sidekicks in Mamma Mia), had us doing a double take as Cinderella’s stepmother.
Woods is no children’s fairytale. It is no walk in the park – or should we say, woods.
Without giving too much away about Mr Wolf’s fate, Little Red Riding Hood learns to defend herself against him. When Mr Wolf keeps asking her to follow him, she says no. That’s actually a scenario that some women might have found themselves in, when they encounter men who just won’t take no for an answer. Prince Charming sings at least 2 songs about finding his one true love, but his heart strays when he sees another woman.
The film’s characters often speak of death, desolation and even urge each other to kill themselves to save an entire town. Little Red Riding Hood isn’t so innocent anymore, or free of murderous intent. Cinderella’s stepsisters sacrifice a few body parts to fit into the fabled slipper – now made in gold, for practical purposes.
And there’s the slapstick too where Chris Pine’s Prince Charming isn’t as dashing and noble as he was made out to be in the books. He sings of his undying love, sprawls all over the rocks and rips his shirt just to prove his point. It’s a ripping example of alpha-male machismo at its greasiest worst, pathos at its rip-roaring best.
At the end of the 2-hour theatrical affair, it’s puzzling as to what its motive is. Is it to rack up its Oscar potential in as many categories as possible, or to show just how many A-list actors it can cram in a single cast? From all the convoluted character arcs, messages and plotlines we’ve seen, perhaps the agenda is to show how we make mistakes and handle the problems life throws at us.
That’s what the fictional characters grapple with in the woods. They stray from our objectives and act against their better judgment.The promise of dark emboldens them to act according to their heart’s desires, presenting our favorite fairytales as nightmares that happen to be very, very similar to our realities.
Release Date: 15 Jan
Censorship rating: PG
Genre: Adventure, comedy, fantasy, musical
Director: Rob Marshall
Based on the musical by: Stephen Sondheim
Runtime: 125 minutes
Cast: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Lilla Crawford, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine