Sunday, April 12, 2015

Around and around we go...


Have you ever wondered what would happen if you took all of the Disney stories and smashed them into one another until they didn’t really have any identity anymore but took on this vague redundancy and became, for lack of a better word, stupid?  I personally have never wondered this.  I never wanted to wonder this.  Why would anyone wonder this?  Now, I can’t speak for Sondheim, who penned the famed musical, but this preposterous film adaptation, penned by James Lapine and directed by that hack known as Rob Marshall is so void of texture that it feels grossly underdeveloped, lazy and pointless.

The more I think about what this could have been and what it turned out to be the more I start to seethe at the mouth.

You see, Disney has a special place in my heart.  So do Broadway musicals.  So do dark, twisted incarnations of what we think we know and love.  So, seeing our Disney heroines thrust into a dark and twisted fantasy wrapped in music that swells from the girth of all things ‘Les Miserables’ was something I was, without question, looking forward to.  ‘Into the Woods’ was one of the films I personally could not wait to set my eyes on.  I expected something grand, something provoking, something challenging, something memorable.  What I got was something that felt too withdrawn, withered almost, underdeveloped, not reaching the heights it was setting for itself and, sadly, forgettable.

All that potential was squandered, and it makes me sick to my stomach.



I have not seen the stage musical, so I cannot compare, although I’ve read about some of the ‘family friendly’ changes that were made to this production, and so I can say that this film does not represent what Sondheim originally intended.  What baffles me the most about this is the fact that they went to such great lengths to clean this up for families and yet they still left in a sizable amount of innuendo that makes me question the direction they wanted to take this.  If they were going to try and keep Sondheim’s darker vision intact, why not go all the way and actually shoot for at least a PG-13 rating, kill off the characters you needed to and keep his vision alive?  Why alter it just so much but not enough to the point where it finds itself somewhere in the middle of what it was and what you wanted it to be and now it has no identity and is just awkward and uncomfortable?

And why is this film so dungy and dull, visually?  Why is everything so dark and unfortunate?  I understand that this is a darker tale, a more depressing one, but even ‘Les Miserables’ was beautiful to look at.  Instead of capitalizing on the general lavish stylings of Disney productions, this minimalist approach makes everything feel so ugly and dull. 

And don’t even get me started on the story.  This is what happens when you try too hard to mash everything together but lack the ability to edit and make it all flow.  The base storyline (about finding items to feed to a cow to reverse a spell) makes no sense and feels so preposterous it can’t be a real story.  Like, who would make this up?  Who thinks this sounds even remotely interesting and not in the slightest absolutely silly? 


The cast is good, though, for the most part.  They don’t have a whole lot to do, but most of them make the most of what they do have.  James Corden grounds the film, but he’s also saddled with a lifeless character.  Anna Kendrick sings beautifully, but does nothing else.  Meryl Streep is all sorts of over the top, but she sells her main moments (except for that rap, which was awful).  Emily Blunt is the lifeblood of the film and is the sole MVP, but even her character feels skeletal, which is sad since the character itself SHOULD have filled the screen.

Pedophile Johnny Depp is almost as creepy as regular Johnny Depp and was, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the worst thing about this movie.


But, it’s not really a knock to be the worst thing in a movie that is just full of nothing special, so it’s all kind of ‘the worst thing’ if you really think about it.  Nothing really works here.  It’s a lot of the same thing over and over with no real arc worth investing in, and when all is said and done the central theme about children listening and growing and parents and adults being careful how they raise those children never comes across except for in the words of a song, which is nicely sung but fails to make an impact.

D. 

18 comments:

  1. Squandered potential. I couldn't agree more. And what was with that skeevy pedo wolf? Johnny Depp, what has happened to you?

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    1. Apparently, in the original stage musical, the Wolf is a pedophile and wants to molest Red. They dumbed it down for the film (but Depp's performance is so...creepy), but the original script that I read had The Baker hacking the Wolf to pieces at least, which was only hinted at in the finished product (obviously in order to get that PG rating), which I think hurt the film (or at least that section) quite a bit. It becomes a pointless sub-plot with uncomfortable innuendo that should have either been cut entirely or fleshed out like originally intended.

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  2. Ohoh-Hahahaaa Streep does rap crap? Oh boy...and she got an Oscar nom for that? See cough out a hairball and she can get a nom:) I saw a high school production of this and -yup they have to go to get beans or whatever to reverse the spell. I liked the intermingling of all the fairy tales and the hidden fun meanings but it sounds like Disney decided to to make it more like vanilla ice cream-shame really

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    1. Oh yes...she raps...about beans...and it's very awkward, and not in a fun way either.

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    2. No...but she does blow a lot of hot air.

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  3. If I ever come across Johnny Depp, I would like to kick him in the nuts for being a tool. You're absolutely right about Rob Marshall. He is a fucking hack. He has no idea into how to make a musical let alone a film.

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    1. Oh what he used to be. Depp that is. Marshall was never anything but a hack, to be honest.

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    1. It's a shame, really, since this could have been special.

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  5. I didn't dislike this, but then, I don't hold the musical as sacrosanct as many of my fellow musical theater-loving friends do. I find many of the same problems with it as you do - namely, the whole idea behind the plot makes very, very little sense. And the second act has pacing problems, some of which were actually fixed in the film - although the Witch's final song, "Last Midnight" was an absolute mess visually. The overall look is also surprisingly drab (although not as drab as I was expecting from the trailers). But many of the performances were delightful surprises (who knew Emily Blunt and Chris Pine could sing? And so well!?), the orchestrations were gorgeously lush, and it mostly moved along at a pretty good clip. I enjoyed it a lot, but by the end I was still left with the lingering question, why even adapt THIS musical to the screen at all? There's no real reason other than the (frankly tenuous, if you ask me) connection to the Disney "brand", and that's not really a good enough reason, especially when a film lacks vision as much as this. Really interesting things could have been done with it, but there's little here (aside from the music and performances - Depp aside) that meets that potential.

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    1. Pretty much every single thing you just said, except that I didn't even enjoy this, but the performance (Depp aside) were fine enough, and the music was great...it just didn't do anything for me in the context of the film. I'd have no issues listening to the soundtrack in my car though :-P

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  6. Yep. Yep. It was so bad. And it had the palette of most of these Disney live action famous fairy tales animations - everything navy blue and golden, puke! It looks so dull and lifeless. Depp's segment was so freaking creepy, a question needs to be asked if this stay what on Earth did these people cut?!

    I thought Blunt was great but for me Pine stole the show. He was hilarious and actually didn't feel out of place like everyone else

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    1. Pine was pretty good here. He did feel in the moment and in with what the tone intended to be, or needed to be. Agony was pretty hilarious, actually...but it felt so corny considering that the rest of the film tried so hard to be so serious (you know, tried and failed).

      Depp...WTF!

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  7. Ha, I had a good time, but it's hardly one of the premiere releases of 2014. Really hoping for a Depp comeback with Black Mass. Still, he'll be back with two Disney sequels, so who am I kidding?

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    1. I honestly just want Depp to go away at this point, which is a shame but he's become such a parody of himself.

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  8. While I enjoyed the musical numbers and most of the actors, I thought it dragged towards the end. Plus, even though Meryl Streep nailed her big musical numbers, it still felt like she was in a different movie from everyone else because while her co-stars were more nuanced, I felt she was all sorts of over the top.

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    1. She was all over the place, and not in a good way. I mean, I love Streep...but this was messy.

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