124 min - Comedy | Family | Fantasy

Review: Matt Mungle

The biggest gamble Hollywood ever takes is when it hires A-list actors for a film that is 98% singing. The question always remains; is it better to get a wonderful vocalist who can sort of act or a top notch actor who can barely carry a tune? The answer is mute in regards to INTO THE WOODS since luckily the cast really nails both. In fact it isn't the performers that make this a less than marvelous film but rather the lengthy script and a horribly convoluted final act.

The story is fanciful and clever as it combines many popular fairy tale characters. Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), and that magic bean hustler Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) all converge into the woods and become entangled in an adventure like no other. The wicked witch (Meryl Streep) has cast a spell and the only way the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) can break it is with the help of the fore mentioned characters.

Calling this a musical is the safest way to describe it. Being based on a popular musical this one will delight fans of that genre. There are very few lines in the film that are spoken and not sung. But that is a good thing since the songs are incredibly written and performed. One in particular that will have audiences cheering is AGONY in which Cinderella's Prince (Chris Pine) and Rapunzel's Prince (Billy Magnussen) croon a duet of lost love and passion. The two-hour movie is wall to wall songs taken from the theater production. This will delight all age groups unless of course you are beat down by singing; then probably not so much.

For the most part the acting fits the bill. With the amount of vocal performances in this one you sort of forget to study the actual acting. Of course Streep will have you shaking your head and wondering if there is any role she can't pull off. She tackles the role of the witch, which is the character with the most depth, and makes her larger than life. Plus she sings as if it is her main profession in life.

Everything in the production moves along splendidly and just when you think it has ended and will finish stunningly there is an entire final act that brings it all crashing down. You will know it when it happens and will wonder why they thought it necessary to include it.(To avoid any spoilers I will not go into details) Fans of the stage production will argue that it makes more sense live and they will not be as taken aback. Those unfamiliar with the live version will find it disjointed, careless, and completely unnecessary. In fact most will conclude that it actually distracts from and steals the wonder and magic from the previous 90-minutes. You will walk out feeling less joy than you would had it ended when it should have.

INTO THE WOODS is rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material.It is safe for those 10 and up but I will warn parents that some things happen (again I will avoid details) in the final act referred to earlier that may confuse your younger kids and have them asking some awkward questions. It is hard enough for adults to figure out why some characters are acting a certain way so the tiny tots may be even more confused and saddened. There is nothing crude or gratuitous, just things take place that go against the grain of what you would hope for. Bottom line it is just sad. I give INTO THE WOODS 3 out of 5 not so happily ever afters. There is a lot in this production that works but sadly the end robs it of any possible greatness.


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