Into the Woods

There are so many movies out right now that I’m dying to see. I had planned to visit the theatre and indulge more than once over the holidays, but with one thing and another, it didn’t happen. However, I did take Nathan (11) and Kaitlyn (9) to see “Into the Woods” yesterday.

Knowing how complicated Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics can sometimes be, I wondered if they would be able to follow the story and not be bored. I certainly wasn’t bored. I’ve never seen the Broadway musical. Didn’t really even know that much about it, other than it was written by Sondheim, and that it had quite the long run on Broadway.

If you love musicals, as I do, you will love this one. The lyrics are delicious and definitely keep you on your toes. It intertwines the lives of a baker and his wife, who desperately want a child, with a witch who lives next door. Unbeknownst to them, the witch had placed a curse on the baker’s parents when he was a child, because the baker’s father (also a baker) had stolen greens and veggies from her garden. Also part of the story are the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk. Somehow, the baker and his wife must gather four items from each of these characters to give to the witch so that she can remove the curse.

The casting is superb, starting with the wonderful Meryl Streep as the witch. She tears up the scenery with her performance and has two showcase songs that she performs beautifully. The baker is played by an actor who I hadn’t heard of before, James Corden. He is kind of hapless, and wouldn’t get far without his take-charge, but gentle, wife, played by Emily Blunt. Cinderella is played by Anna Kendrick. Chris Pine makes a perfect Prince Charming who can sometimes be not-quite-so charming. Christine Baranski is Cinderella’s stepmother. Her scenes with the two step-sisters are too funny. Tracey Ullmann plays Jack’s mother. It was nice to see her again in a role that suited her to a tee.

Johnny Depp is a perfect Big Bad Wolf. A little too perfect, in my opinion. The song he sings is creepy, and brings to mind child molestation. I’m sure I’m not the only person viewing it who has had the same feeling. The play was first performed in 1987, and maybe that particular song didn’t have the same connotations that it does now, but for my part they could have left that one out. I was very uncomfortable listening to it.

All of the actors do their own singing, and they sing wonderfully. The most classically trained is Anna Kendrick, which was a surprise. She is best known for her role in the Twilight Saga movies, but she was also nominated for a Tony for her work in “High Society.” Emily Blunt who was not known for her singing abilities has a lovely voice. My favorite was Lilla Crawford who played Little Red Riding Hood. She was droll and funny and held her own against Johnny Depp’s Big Bad Wolf. She’s an actress to watch for. This was her first feature film.

In the movie theatre, I just happened to be seated by a woman who was obviously enjoying it as much as I was. After the credits rolled, I asked her if she had ever seen the musical on stage. She not only had seen it numerous times, but she had also acted in it in local productions as the witch and the baker’s wife! That was her second viewing of the movie. She said that it was very good, and they had only cut a small part. It was long, over two hours. It was a nice little bonus chatting with her.

So, I’m sure you get the idea that I loved the movie, but I was still a little concerned that the kids were bored with it. I think Kaitlyn was a little bit during a couple of the longer numbers, but Nathan gave it two thumbs up. He looked a little surprised when I asked him if he liked it. Grammy, he said, I never thought I would say this, but it just replaced “Frozen” as my number two movie of all time. Number one is Big Hero Six. Now you can’t get much higher praise than that.

See you soon,

Susan

10 thoughts on “Into the Woods

  1. I am SO glad to hear the kids liked it. I adored it. But I was worried — I don’t know if it’s a kid’s movie because of the relatively constant singing and the intricacy of Sondheim’s lyrics. It’s really quite an allegory and kids don’t always get that. So, this part of your post thrilled me.

    I also thought you wrote the most succinct description of the plot I’ve read anywhere!

    Did you see previews for this? I started seeing previews in July and they never sang — just lots of clips of mostly special effects. Clearly not marketed as a musical. You got hints as it got closer. Of course, Sondheim fans knew! But it felt like it was being marketed to the Harry Potter crowd, when really the ones who need to hear this are the adults!

    There is much to be learned from this film, much to give one cause to pause and look at their own lives. I’d see it again in a heartbeat! (And have been working on a post about it so check the Gypsy soon!)

    (Oh, and James Cordon is going on as the late-night host of whatever follows Leno, replacing Craig Ferguson, sometime this month. Should be fun!)

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    • Jeanie, I was thrilled that the kids loved it as much as I did. Nathan came straight home and started looking up songs from the stage play. I really want to see it again and again. The lady I spoke to said the same thing, and I of course realized it too, that there is a lot going on under the surface in this movie/play. I think it would take many viewings to really understand it all. Too bad we can’t go see it together. 🙂

      I agree with you about the previews. One would think that Meryl Streep was the only thing going on there. If I hadn’t known anything about Sondheim, I would never have guessed that it was a musical. I don’t know if I’ve seen any recent previews, but I’ll pay attention if I do. I based my attendance on the many fine reviews I’ve read. Hollywood often gets the marketing wrong, I’ve found. I remember when A Family Man came out. They promoted it as a comedy. It had a few comedic moments, but it was more sweet and tragic than funny. I think they think they have to dumb movies down in the previews to grab our attention. That often turns me off.

      I shall have to record that show to see what James Corden is all about. I had never heard of him before!

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  2. This really is funny — not only your post, but the fact that Jeanie was the first commenter. She referenced this on my blog, and I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. I’d never heard of the musical, and I didn’t know there was a film adaptation in theaters right now. I did read the wiki about the Broadway musical, and read some reviews of the film, and watched a trailer, and thought: “I’m glad I know it exists, I guess — but I wouldn’t make an effort to go see it.” Of course, I’m not a fan of musicals, so there’s that.

    In any event, I’m glad you got to see it, and that you all enjoyed it. Now, what is this “Frozen” that Nathan mentioned? 🙂

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    • Linda, of the many films I had on my list to see this year, Into the Woods was probably in the middle somewhere, but none of the others were suitable for youngsters. I’m so glad it was the only one, because otherwise I might not have seen it until it comes out on DVD. If you don’t enjoy musicals, then you probably wouldn’t like it. There is far more musical conversation than there is just talking. I love, love, love musicals. I think I was born to be in musical theater, but never had the nerve to try out for anything. If our little town had anything like that, I might be tempted to try it, but as far as I know they don’t, except at the high school.

      I assume by the addition of the smiley face, that you ask about “Frozen” in jest? If you are serious, you really don’t have any little ones in your life. We’ve seen it so many times here, that I know all the numbers (and most of the lines) by heart. It’s a sweet little Disney animated movie based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. It has a lot of clever little comedic moments in it, that for me, make the movie. And, you get two heroines for the price of one! Did I say that I love musicals? 🙂

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      • As much as I hate to say it, this is my sum knowledge about “Frozen”: it’s a movie, and lots of people seem to be talking about it. What can I say? I’m weird. I’m trying to become more conversant with pop culture, but it’s a slow process. On the other hand, I did get to the theater to see “Skyfall” and “Marigold Hotel.” I’m not a totally lost cause!

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    • Natalie, your kids would love it! Especially Maria. She would make a great Red Riding Hood, BTW. I really think it deserves watching on the big screen. I hope you get a chance to see it there, but if not, definitely see it when it is released on DVD. I can’t wait to buy a copy!

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  3. Sounds wonderful. My grands want to see it, and I’m sure they will. Don’t know about the Johnny Depp song. Hm. You’ve got me wanting to see it. I love Meryl so much. She’s unbelievable.

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    • Yes, the song was pretty creepy, at least to me. I’m curious to know if others felt that way. I should do some review research. Gosh, Meryl looked so beautiful at the Golden Globes last night. She never seems to age, and I don’t think it’s because of plastic surgery.

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