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article imageReview: Something is lost ‘Into the Woods’ Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Dec 25, 2014 in Entertainment
‘Into the Woods’ merges several fairy tales into an unexceptional musical about a baker and his wife tasked with collecting four magical items for a witch.
Fairy tale mash-ups seem to be all the rage right now, particularly with the popularity of CBS’ Once Upon a Time. Interweaving these stories and allowing their characters to interact opens up lots of possibilities for new adventures and dangers. In Into the Woods, several fairy tales are cleverly combined with mixed results.
The Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) want nothing more than to be parents, but are unable to have children. One day the Witch (Meryl Streep) next door offers to lift the curse that keeps them barren if they can gather four items for her before the end of the three nights. Determined to succeed, the couple set out to find a white cow, red cape, glass slipper and golden strand of hair, which intertwines their story with that of Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy).
Though it may not be clear from the film’s promotion, this is a straight-up musical. With little spoken dialogue, most of the words in the film are said to music. However none of it is especially catchy as to find yourself singing any of the tunes after watching the movie. The most memorable song is “Agony,” performed by the picture’s two princes played by Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen. And it's not even the song that's memorable, but rather their rendition of it that includes protruding chests, over acting and a constant attempt to one-up each other. Pine’s other number, the seductive “Any Moment,” is equally entertaining.
While the traditional aspects of the fairy tales remain intact, the Witch, the Baker and his Wife are intertwined in their stories; altering and contributing to them in different ways. By the end of the film their narratives are completely entangled and the characters have become dependent on each other. However combining so many stories frequently disrupts the movie's flow and causes it to appear ill-conceived at times. (Perhaps this adaptation of the stage show is missing something.)
The actors are well cast in their roles, belting out their parts more than satisfactorily. While Streep, Kendrick, Blunt, Corden and the others are good, two of the picture's standout performances are delivered by Pine and Johnny Depp during his brief appearance as the Big Bad Wolf. Pine has fun portraying the idealised Prince who is really far from perfect. Similarly, Depp goes all out as the conniving and captivating Wolf preparing to make a meal of the little girl and her grandmother.
The fantasy element is captured beautifully in the film’s aesthetic, but it’s most significant flaw is its double ending. The first “happily-ever-after” ending isn’t entirely complete, but it definitely feels like a viable conclusion. However the film than pushes on for approximately another 30 minutes, seemingly stretching the narrative to an unnecessary two hours. It’s well-meaning as everyone finds their true selves while defending the kingdom from the giant, but it feels poorly tacked on to the original ending.
Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep and Chris Pine
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