Rob Fenimore is one of several new television and film reviewers that Geek Girl Authority has brought on to our nerdtastic team. He had to pass vigorous training in both mental and physical areas. Congrats on passing the tests Rob and we’re sorry about what happened to your sternum. That’s just nasty. Follow Rob on twitter, here! Here’s Rob’s first GGA review on Into the Woods!
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a trip to the movies and its braving of the masses. This year it was Into The Woods, the Sondheim Broadway musical adapted for the big screen. The story is basically an intertwining of several fairy tales, mainly Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. The cast boasts Streep, Depp, Blunt, and Pine along with Pitch Perfect star Anna Kendrick.
As a musician, though not a fan of musicals per se, I am always interested to see if Hollywood actors can crossover into the musical genre. Regardless of how well they fair, I am usually impressed with the intestinal or testicular fortitude it takes for the likes of a Meryl Streep or Johnny Depp to risk critical backlash for the sake of their art (and bankroll). I admire their willingness to stretch their skills instead of resting on the same old bread and butter, like Aerosmith has done since 1990. Even Russell Crowe deserves kudos for his attempt at Les Mis. That being said, there was no obvious weak link in this cast.
Stage actors Lilla Crawford (Red Riding Hood) and Daniel Huttlestone (Jack) may have been the youngest, but their voices stood out as the strongest. Meryl Streep’s songs got stronger as the film went on, culminating with an excellent performance of “Last Midnight” near the end of the movie. Anna Kendrick was solid, and I thought Emily Blunt and Daniel Corden sang well as the baker and his wife. Johnny Depp’s performance was probably the weakest musically, but it served his role as the Big Bad Wolf appropriately.
The true strong point of the film was its humor. Tracy Ullman had some funny moments early and Chris Pine was tremendous as Cinderella’s prince. His duet with Billy Magnussen (Rapunzel’s prince) was easily the best scene in the movie for me. A duet with Blunt on “Any Moment” brought a few laughs as well. Pine seems to channel his inner Shatner every time I see him. I love how his acting oozes self awareness and deprecation. He pulls it off Prince-charmingly in Into The Woods. Lilla Crawford’s performance as Red Riding Hood possessed a bit of the dry sarcastic humor of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka. If I was smarter I would interestingly point out some irony in the fact that she shared two scenes with Johnny Depp.
The only downside of Into The Woods was in the pacing. The opening fifteen minutes were very strong and the first half flew by with lots of singing. The second half bogged down a bit in story and the music became more and more scarce until returning strongly at the end. I guess this had something to do with the stage to screen translation, but it still put a damper on it. Overall it was a pleasant experience and an accomplished movie musical. I ‘m going to make the criteria for my reviews the tried and true star system. That being said, I would give Into the Woods a solid 4 of 5 stars.
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