Into the Woods
Here is a conversation I had with this movie right after I wanted it.
Me: You can’t have your characters sing/say how they feel, that makes me feel angry!
Into the Woods: Look, what do you want?
Me: I want my two hours back!
This is common info but I have to say it anyway, Into the Woods is a 2014 musical fantasy movie based on the musical of the same name by Stephen Sondheim. It’s a parody of classic fairy tales as multiple fairy tale characters meet in the woods, get it?
Apparently this movie was in development for a long time, like early 90’s but it wasn’t till the another musical that this movie got the interest of Rob Marshall, director of Chicago.
As you might be able to gauge from my conversation with Into the Woods, I didn’t care for this movie, but you would be wrong, I utterly loathed it.
Emily Blunt as The Baker’s Wife, James Corden as The Baker and Daniel Huttlestone as Jack
The “story” goes that this Baker and his wife want a baby but they can’t for some reason. Reason comes busting through their door in the form of a witch who tells them that it was a curse that was put of the baker’s family for his father stealing her vegetables so that the family tree would stop. However he also stole some magic beans which cursed the witch into be old and ugly. So she makes the Baker and his wife get some items, A white cow, a red cape, a gold shoe and yellow hair. And they have to find them in the woods.
Lucky all the characters they meet in the wood have the items they need. Jack an idiot, has the cow. The Baker and wife trade the beans which they happened to find in the Baker’s pocket. Jack uses the bean to climb up the beanstalk and steals from the giant to get his cow back. Red Riding hood, a kleptomaniac with a sugar addiction has the red cloak. The Baker at first tries to steal it from her but she gives it to him after he saves her and her granny from the pedophile wolf. The Baker’s wife then runs into Cinderella, a shy insecure girl who just wanted to go to festival a.k.a the ball. The Barker’s wife tries really hard to get that shoe. The Baker’s wife gets it when on the third night of the festival Cinderella runs away from the prince and she just lets her have it. The barker’s wife also get Rapunzel’s hair, who is locked in a tower and no real personality what so ever. She is locked up there by the same witch who they are getting the items for. Rapunzel is also the baker’s little sister too and his also mixed up in a love story with random prince #2. The hair turns out a bust since the witch can’t have touched the items, that’s a rule and then cow died so Baker had to get another and covered it with flour. But it’s really whatever since the witch just brings the cow back to life and the use corn silk. So yeah wife gets pregnant instantly and witch gets pretty and happy ending for Cinderella for her prince seems to come but then LADY GAINT attacks. She is pissed for Jack killing her husband and robbing them and he’s the good guy.
Then I guess things go to shit. Cinderella and her prince aren’t working out. Jack’s mom dies. The Cinderella’s prince cheat on her with the barker’s wife and then she dies. The witch wants to give jack to giant but no one agrees with her so she just peaces out. And then Cinderella uses her birds to beat the giant and happy ever after with the baker.
Anna Kendrick as Cinderella
So what makes this movie bad? Well lots of things but let’s just focus on the only positive I had about it. And if you read my reviews with any regularity you might think it’s the costumes but nope, I will get to that later. It would be the actors. I think all the actors try really hard to make it work while movie itself doesn’t care. They all sing well though Little Red Riding Hood’s singing style I find annoying.
Also I don’t really believe Anna Kendrick as the shy demure Cinderella, she does try but I don’t believe it but she sing it well. Really this movie should have been more about the actors conveying emotions than then telling us how they feel.
Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood
Which bring us to greatest sin in this movie, this movie at EVERY SINGLE turn just tells the a viewer what the characters feel through narration, dialogue and singing. I feel like a broken record but show don’t tell is a cardinal rule of movie making.
In a stage show you say a little more since there is an energy that is part of the experience but not in a movie. In fact at one point in this movie, the narrator says that Red Riding Hood is suprised but it doesn’t show in her acting and then she SAYS that she feels uneasy. Just fuck you movie.
Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince and Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel’s Prince
This anti show don’t tell concept is a massive step further as the movie tells the audience about the things that are happening to the characters. For instance we never see Cinderella at the ball in fact we never seen Cinderella interact with the Prince at all, save for like two exchanges with them same with Rapunzel and her prince. We do see them talking about it though. In fact the princes sing about the their agony of not being with there lady loves to each other despite the fact that we never seen them together. The two princes whining constitutes more scene time then with their loves. So any character development is told to us after the fact.
This make the musical numbers boring as instead showing us what they talking about in creative ways it’s just basic editing as someone sings about what just happened. Though in one instance there is a flashback but the movie literally presented the same scene like 90 seconds before the flashback so even the flashback is boring and pointless.
I won’t say I’m an expert of musical movies but I alway want to like them. But if you’re just going have a characters sing and spin around you might as well just have then say lines. Musicals in movie form need something visually interesting to help keep attention. Climbing a tree or moving around a set doesn’t work. Play with the lightening, editing, or something. It very bad and telling that at the ten minute mark the movie becomes exhausting to watch and the first song was the most visually interesting as it moved from character to character.
Anna Kendrick as Cinderella and Emily Blunt as The Baker’s Wife
Speaking of lightening and sets, why does it seem like all recent live-action musical movies are gritty and dark? Why is Hollywood trying to make musical movie real life?
This worked a movie in Les Mis though I still didn’t like that movie because it was all sort of pretentious shlock, but it worked in Chicago but that movie played with Roxie Hart as she imagined the musical numbers. Considering Rob Marshal directed both Chicago and Into the Woods he should had a handle on what a musical movie good and entertaining. People wandering in a dark forest and singing about their feeling without giving a reason for them and cutting all the pesky story parts doesn’t a good movie make, I don’t care what your bubble of Hollywood says. You know Hollywood I hate to tell you this but if you’re a musical where singing is a norm to convey information you kind lost the right to give the movie a weird sense of legitimacy but making it “real.”
Then there are the costumes which I could barely see through the dark lightning of the movie. Though when you can make them out they aren’t really anything. They are just adequate at best at worse they are uninspired. Really they could have just had wearing back unitard with their role written on them and it would have had the same effect.
Meryl Streep as The Witch
Into The Woods could have been a good movie if the movie cared enough to tell the story instead of reporting it through songs that were performed with ugly sets and poor lightening. It they had done more interesting things with adapting the original musical into a film it could have been so much better. Skip it but then again the movie skips itself.
Clue 1 and Clue 2