I was really looking forward to this movie since I absolutely love Tim Burton’s adaptation of another Stephen Sondheim musical, Sweeney Todd. Despite Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine) being the director of Into the Woods and Disney being the studio behind it I was still very excited for another dark musical.
The first half of the movie delivers and met most of my expectations. It’s very fun, fast paced, and interesting. There are some stand out performances, especially from Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood. Lilla has great comedic timing and she is simply a joy to watch (and listen to). Johnny Depp is also quite funny in his glorified cameo as the Wolf (although I do not like his costume). Emily blunt and Anna Kendrick are also very good. But the actor that nearly steals the show from Lilla is Chris Pine. Wow, I was blown away!! I never thought much of him until now. Not only can he sing amazingly well, he is also hilarious!!! The duet “Agony” that he sings with Billy Magnussen is by far my favorite part of the movie and it alone is worth the price of admission.
As much as I liked the first half of Into the Woods I really disliked the second half. The story suddenly gets extremely dark. Which would have been fine if any of it made any sense. The transition is so blunt and hardly explained that the whole film suddenly falls flat. There’s this whole bit with a giant that made me yawn and look at the time continuously. I think that too much of the original musical was cut out of the second half.
I was also quite disappointed by the songs in Into the Woods. Other than “Agony’ nothing stood out to me, except for maybe the opener. I was surprised by this because I find all the songs in Sweeney Todd very catchy and engaging. But here the songs are kind of boring. And while Meryl Streep gives an okay performance I didn’t find her particularly good.
Overall Into the Woods is an okay film. I think the film would have benefited greatly from a more visually strong director. Rob Marshall is nothing special if you ask me, Chicago is okay, but not amazing. I couldn’t help but wish as I was watching it that Tim Burton had directed it since he did such wonders with Sweeney Todd. Rob Marshall’s bland directing and the lazy screenwriting during the second half keep Into the Woods from being really different and interesting. Any commentaries on “happily ever after” fall flat. Into the Woods gets 6 charmings out of ten sinceres.
While writing this trailer review I also got the idea for a new kind of post: Actor Analysis in which I will evaluate the past work of an actor and the direction they are/should be going in the future. Does that make sense? Give your opinions in the comments and nominate an actor for me to evaluate, possibly once a week. Or tell me it’s a shit idea, whatever. On with the trailer review:
I am not a Jennifer Aniston fan. It’s partly because I am Team Jolie (that’s so 2005, I know). But I also just feel that Jennifer reached her pinnacle many years ago now and needs to stop trying to reclaim it. The way I see it, the only reason she seems to still be popular these days is because of the love triangle between her, Brad Pitt, and Angelina that the media still perpetuates. Jennifer can be quite a good comedic actress, I’ll give her that. She was very enjoyable on Friends and in a few of her rom-coms.
With Cake Jennifer wants to be taken seriously as a dramatic actress. There are some rumors that she may even be up for an Oscar nomination for her role as a woman traumatized by an accident she suffered. Something like that anyways. The media (things like People magazine, etc.) are making a big deal that Jennifer wears no makeup and has a facial scar in Cake. I think focusing on something that superficial is insulting to women and especially to Jennifer, although she seems to be fueling these media outlets.
While watching this trailer I tried to look past surface and evaluate Jennifer’s performance as well as the film as much as I could from a 2 minute glimpse. I think Jennifer gives an okay performance here. Not bad, but nowhere near Oscar worthy (especially this year with actresses like Rosamund Pike and Julianne Moore presumably in the race). Also, I do not want to see Jennifer playing a pessimistic bitch. She also comes off as a creepy stalker, obsessed with someone’s dead wife (when you say “I’m not a stalker,” you definitely are). I don’t think even her biggest fans want to see that. There is nothing about her character in Cake that seems likeable. I think that’s also because Jennifer is trying just a little too hard to shed her good girl image. I think she should embrace it instead of moving away from it since that is where she has had the most success. Cake doesn’t seem worth my time, and that’s not just because of Jennifer Aniston. It just doesn’t feel exciting and new. It feels old and dull. Go watch Gone Girl again or something else equally intriguing. Cake feels like a snooze, as its January release date suggests. Also, why is it called Cake? Maybe I’d go see it if free cake was involved.
Finally, a proper trailer for this film! I didn’t bother reviewing the first trailer for Into the Woods because it hardly revealed anything. But this trailer really gives you a feel of what the vibe is going to be. And also there’s singing! I think it’s mostly just Meryl Streep (as the Witch), but it’s better than nothing. And she sounds pretty good! Although this isn’t her first singing role as she starred in Mamma Mia a few years ago.
I really like this trailer. Before I saw it I was ambivalent about this film and was worried that it would be a boring re-hashing of some classic fairy tales. But this trailer swept me away with both its visuals and the music. Oh the music. Stephen Sondheim is a master, simply a musical genius. If you read my recent review of Sweeney Todd (another Sondheim musical) than you probably aren’t surprised that I am excited about Into the Woods. Finally, I’ll have some new songs to sing while I do my chores! Into the Woods won’t be nearly as dark as Sweeney Todd. Which is too bad because I think the original musical was a little raunchy (correct me if I’m wrong) and that with the movie version Disney has sanitized it a bit. I think there might be a lot of similarities between the two films, although Into the Woods is directed by Rob Marshall, who also directed Chicago and Nine. I don’t really like his previous work (Chicago has its moments), but I’m hoping to enjoy this. Although I would have preferred Tim Burton, but he seems to be moving away from elaborate films these days.
Acting wise, the people that stand out for me in this trailer are Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick. While Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp have the showier parts somehow they don’t intrigue me. I like Meryl, but she isn’t an actress I run to the theater to see. I used to run to see Johnny, but he’s been disappointing me a lot lately and he has hammed it up in costume so many times before the schtick is getting a little old. I also wish they had gone for a different look for the Wolf. He looks so….human. It’s boring. After seeing Edge of Tomorrow I am now a huge Emily blunt fan and I think she can work her magic here as the Baker’s Wife. But I think Anna Kendrick will really steal the show as Cinderella. She just seems so relatable and smart. Hopefully she can put a unique spin on the typical Disney princess mold.
I think/hope that Into the Woods will be a fun movie to see on Christmas day. I think it is a perfect release date. It looks magical, a little dark, but mostly fun. I wish it would be a little darker a la Sweeney Todd, but I think it still looks enjoyable. I think Anna Kendrick is going to stand out and really become a big star after this. If you don’t like musicals you may want to skip this one. But I am really excited now and can’t wait.