Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Into the Woods

*** out of ****

I really enjoyed Into the Woods. That doesn't mean everyone will. This is a film that appealed to my specific tastes in a way that made a gratifying experience. The fact that it passed my late-night viewing test, where the movie kept me awake instead of leading me to slap myself in the face, is a good sign.

Everyone in this movie, from Meryl Streep to Chris Pine, could sing -and I have a special affection for beautiful women, like Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick singing beautiful music. The other appeal to my specific taste is its co-creator. I think that broadway legend, Stephen Sondheim is a brilliant lyricist and composer of heavenly music. 

As I've learned, even from people who like musicals, not everyone enjoys his work. It's not as pop-music oriented as the kind of stuff people get from Andrew Lloyd-Webber or animated Disney films.

Here, Disney has thankfully produced an aesthetically rich live-action opera, filled with grand production design and elegant special effects that don't reach the overkill level of their film, Maleficent, from earlier this year. Director Rob Marshall does good work with a talented ensemble to recreate a show that combines multiple Grimm fairy tales in their grotesque incarnations playfully inhabiting the same world.

The movie is refreshingly silly and thankfully free of any last-minute moronic sincerity often found in family entertainment. Its only real problem was shared with me by friends long before I saw it: The final act drags. It is my presumption that this is due to its adaption being too true to the original. In big stage shows, you have the benefit of an intermission, welcoming an extended finale. In a movie, it can feel tedious, wearing out its welcome. I'm sure everyone involved knew this, but probably also knew there was no easy editorial solution. Regardless of this flaw, I still found it to be a lot of fun.   

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