HE’S A VERY SMART PRINCE…

6 Jan

I interrupt my “Every Tom Hanks movie Ever” challenge to bring you my review of the 2014 adaptation of INTO THE WOODS.

into-woods-witch-baker

This will not be an insanely long review commenting on how Into the Woods effected my childhood and how much it means to see a well done film version of a show I hold so close to my heart. Anyone in musical theatre (most) have a special place in their heart for this show. I am not closer to this show than anyone else. I do not think that my insights on Woods should be taken into more consideration than others. I am not the world’s #1 authority on musical theatre film adaptations. I am merely in the top 50.

I want to start off by saying that it was a wonderful version. Anything “negative” that I may say, is all nitpicky because… the truth is…  they got it right.
I would also like to start off by saying that I saw this film at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin Texas and you get to drink there. A bottle of wine. You get to drink a bottle of wine while you sit before a score put to screen that represents such a large part of your childhood. Emotions.
One last thing… I saw the movie with my older sister (who played the baker’s Wife at 17 – but we’ve all played the Bakers wife at 17, haven’t we) and it was emotional just seeing it with her. Musical theatre, as with most of the people I surround myself with, shaped so much of our upbringing. Sondheim in particular with a light shining on Woods.

I wish….

I wish they had done the reprise of AGONY.

I wish they had nailed more of the jokes within the text/Line deliveries.

I wish they had just cut the Baker’s Dad part rather than doing what they did.

I wish that their voices didn’t often sound so… strategic? polished, on point – I wanted more… human error? personality? flaw for character?

I wish a lot of things…

I’m a BIG advocate of actors who sing. Not the other way around. So much of today’s new musical theatre is comprised of people with AMAZING voices (and some nasal musical theatre bullshit voices) and I miss that gritty – I’m singing a song with my soul – voice that is found in so many original cast recordings from   the 70’s and 80’s.

Let’s be honest, those of us who  know the show like the back of our hands will always and forever compare it to the original>< the Bernadette/Gleason triumph. So… let’s do just that.

ACTING

We’ve got some points for both columns here. Meryl did something which only Meryl Streep could do. Bernadette is in our heads as the witch. Her voice, her delivery, her aura. That being said, Meryl made the witch her own and after the prologue I stopped hearing Bernadette’s voice. Joanna Gleason’s comedic timing was so subtly brilliant that it just couldn’t be matched by Blunt. Emily was solid and gave a fine performance. But that’s… that’s it. Let’s everybody calm down. Anna Kendrick….. again, another fine performance. Solid. I think what is so often missed about Cinderella is how freaking funny she can be. Kim Crosby in the original came close and Laura Benanti(in the version where we’re only allowed to talk about her) was great as well. I feel that Kendrick in general is kind of underwhelming. Her voice is great, but it’s not mind-blowing. Let’s everybody calm down about that as well. I actually really liked James Cordon. Zien had a stronger voice, but always looked like he was going to crack up. it was like getting to see what Jimmy Fallon would have been like as The Baker. Johnny Depp… everyone was hatin’ on Johnny Depp. I actually thought he was great! I liked the sleazy salesman approach and I think we’re just all too quick to hate him these days. Let’s give the guy a break. Tracy Ullman – She was great. My heart goes out to the original Jack’s Mom, but Ullman was the perfect choice for this. I recently saw her in The Band Wagon with Michael McKean and wasn’t impressed. She was better in this. Jack – I LOVED the film Jack. I LOVED the original Jack. I liked that he was bigger and was scared of Little Red at times in the stage version, but I thought this kid was great. (P.S. Giants in the Sky was the first time water came out of my face. I’d like to say the “only time”, but that would be a lie.) Little Red. Nobody will be better than Danielle Ferland in this role. They just won’t be. Lilla Crawford was fine. My new dream role is Rapunzel because it is the most thankless, unforgettable role and it shouldn’t be. I have yet to see a Rap. where I’m truly moved. Rapunzel’s prince was fine. Who am I missing?? Whom am I… oh yes. CHRIS PINE. Chris, Chris, Chris Pine. Stole the film – Hence the title of this blog.

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DIRECTING

It was beautiful to watch. It was everything, visually, I wanted it to be. Was thrilled to see Jack go up the beanstalk. Was elated to see parts of the Giant (still not he whole giant which they could have really “Cloverfielded” themselves had they shown too much of her. And I was overjoyed at the splashy version of Agony.The film wins that point. HOWEVER, a lot of jokes were missed. A lot of line deliveries were sacrificed so that they weren’t “copying” the original. I understand that a lot of the jokes (i.e. dress dropping from the tree in a sloppy/comedic way, a cardboard or human Milky White) is humor that is truly pertinent to the stage version, however… I do think that they could have held true to a bit of what made the timing of the original so… perfect. It felt like Marshall was being very… careful. Which, at the end of the day, could have paid off more than sense of familiarity we all secretly/out loud wanted.  Cinematography was A+.

Overall – I give it an A-. Not since Chicago, I don’t think, has there been a film adaptation that really did the staged version of a favorite musical justice. Sweeney Todd was a travesty, Hairspray – for the most part – was rough, Mama Mia – yikes. Now on to The Last Five Years… which… is gonna be tough. mostly because I am the #1 expert on Musical theatre film adaptation and I have a connection to The Last Five Years that no one else has. 😉

 

 

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