REVIEW: Into The Woods

 

Watch My Movie Minute Review of Into The Woods:

No one has managed to make a movie musical as good as Chicago since Rob Marshall brought that Broadway sensation to the screen in 2002. Not even Rob Marshall.  He didn’t do it with 2009’s Nine, but rest assured, he’s back in top form with Into The Woods, the best musical since Catherine Zeta-Jones told us about all that jazz.

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And that becomes very clear from the very opening seconds with the opening number.  It runs 15 minutes. Yes, 15 minutes.  It introduces almost every character in the story, and also sets up the story with expository dialogue. Did I mention it does all this while everyone is singing?  It jumps back and forth between them all, and Marshall directs it all with such assurance.  It could have been an absolute mess, but Marshall makes it clear he knows exactly what he’s doing.

It helps that Into The Woods features the best ensemble in a musical since the Golden Age of Hollywood.  In modern day musicals, there’s always a couple actors that really don’t have great voices or really can’t dance, and you can see a film covering up for that in its editing.  You feel slightly nervous watching them because they aren’t fully pulling it off (sorry Richard Gere in ChicagoDaniel Day-Lewis in Nine, and just take a look at the new Annie).  Here, there’s not a weak link in the cast.  From Meryl Streep to Emily Blunt to Anna Kendrick to Chris Pine to Tracey Ullman to Christine Baranski, it’s a pleasure to watch everyone.  Johnny Depp‘s role is way smaller than you think. It’s basically a cameo, but he’s a ton of fun as the Big Bad Wolf.  However brief, it’s a relief to see Johnny having fun again after the terrible Transcendence.

There’s no real reason to discuss the written material. It’s obviously stellar since it was written by Stephen Sondheim and ran on Broadway for years.  The basic setup is that a baker and his wife (James Corden, Emily Blunt) want to have a baby and their next door neighbour, a Witch (Meryl Streep) promises them their wish if they go into the woods and collect a red cape, a golden slipper, a white cow, and golden hair.  Those items just happen to belong to Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack (the Beanstalk kid), and Rapunzel.  It helps that this musical is set in a fantastical world so there’s no need to create a context that why people are breaking into song.  It’s a fairy tale so it’s anything goes.

 

bluntInto The Woods flies along with great numbers with fun musical numbers, stunning visuals, and fantastic performances.  Yes, Streep deserves another Oscar nomination for her wonderful work as the Witch.  She has 2 standout numbers, and also brings a lot of heart to her role, in between being delightfully evil.  Golden Globe nominee Blunt and Kendrick could get Oscar’s attention as well.

The film only lags a little bit in its final 30 minutes, as there were a couple of points that I was ready for the plot to move along, but then they would give me another great number.  Make time for Into The Woods this holiday season. You won’t be disappointed.

Grade:  A


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