Into the Woods at The El Capitan
I’m not the type to get extremely excited over the release of a film. Countdowns, midnight screenings? Not really my thing. But, when you turn one of my favorite live musicals into a feature-length film? Then, I might get interested.
Back when I found out Walt Disney Pictures was turning Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 masterpiece, Into the Woods, into their Christmas release, I was intrigued, & like any hardcore theatre person, a bit skeptical. There’s no out doing Bernadette Peters as The Witch, & could they capture its humor, tongue in cheek performances like Agony, on the big screen? I was thrilled when The El Capitan invited me out to see this all for myself at a Sunday matinee…the verdict?
Into the Woods is easily the new classic stage-to-film production; rivaling such beloved musical movies as Oliver! & The Sound of Music. Director Rob Marshall is truly spot-on at creating this magical, “Once upon a time” fairy tale land, filled with witches, princesses & princes, giants in the skies & little girls who make friends with strange wolves. Visually a dark, at times gritty, scenery & gorgeous gowns you want to reach out & touch, Into the Woods is one of those stories that has you wondering “what if?” following a stage production, “what if we were really in that kingdom? What if a giant ever came down from the sky?” & I think we finally have our answer as I felt transformed into these characters lives, & their not-to-happily-ever-after’s.
Telling the tale primarily in song, Into the Woods is all about what really happens once some of our favorite Grimm storybook characters we turned the final page & they lived ‘happily ever after’; the original “Once Upon A Time’, you might say. It was exciting to see such elaborate sets & effects on action scenes, as well as seeing the young roles of Little Red Riding Hood & Jack portrayed by young actors instead of adults, which has been my experience when seeing it live. While Peters will remain my favorite as The Witch, Meryl Streep brought many new layers & feel to this complex role. A bit more maternal & subdued, my heart ached for this witch as she watched the girl she had stolen & made as her own daughter, Rapunzel, learn of her true colors & ride off with her prince.
I’ve been a fan of Anna Kendrick since Up in the Air, & she didn’t disappoint at all as my favorite Woods character, Cinderella. What I enjoyed about Kendrick as Cinderella is her ability to be the damsel in distress without making the role too over the top; she makes it seem completely normal to break out in song or talk to the birds. I admit I was reluctant at the casting of Chris Pine as her Prince; but, oh. my. goodness! I was proven so very wrong in all the right ways. Sondheim’s Prince was written to be very campy, silly, you’re aware he’s an A Hole but you crack up at his attempts to woo his princess. The famous Prince duet Agony showed me just how cut out Pine was for this role. The entire audience was in tears of laughter.
Someone who well deserves the award nominations shes already earned, is Emily Blunt as The Baker’s Wife. Capable of demanding your attention without being a scene stealer, leaving room to enjoy all in a scene, Blunt is gorgeous & brilliant in her role as a woman desperate for a child but learns quickly all is not what its cut out to be once you have what you think you desire. One of my favorite songs, It Takes Two, is such a great moment between her & James Cordon, as The Baker. You will cheer, laugh & cry with this couple.
And, last but not least…so much buzz is going on regarding The Wolf, played by Johnny Depp. Why have we never realized before that this is a role made for Depp?! We see The Wolf in a way I’ve not quite seen him portrayed; I ended up sensing a vibe that he’s human, a sheep in wolf’s clothing, almost, as he pursues Little Red Riding Hood for his next meal, with plenty of other innuendos. It is definitely one of the most memorable, small roles in a musical, & Depp certainly demands you remember him!
As you can tell, I was a fan of Into the Woods. I would watch it again. I know many parents are wondering if its family friendly; overall, I would say it is, although I think I would have gotten anxious as a child at this film (Its 2 hours & 4 minutes). It’s no doubt perfect for the theatre heads & a great date night choice. Check your local listings & get ready to go…..Into the Woods! xo
(*Disclosure: Thanks to The El Capitan for having me on behalf of this review. All opinions as always, are my own.)