Musical 52

THE OBJECTIVE:
Watch 52 musicals, one every week, in 2015.

INTO THE WOODS (2014)

I actually saw a low-budget version of Into the Woods onstage a decade ago because some of my friends were in it; all I remember is some baker getting zapped in the dick, a giant, fairy tale characters fucking, and into the woods, into the woods, into the woods, into the woods, into the woods. Let’s see if the movie version adds up to any more than those few things!

THE STORY:
Go get a bunch of plot coupons!

“Okay!”

You got ‘em!

“Did we win?”

But did you really want the thing you cashed ‘em in for? How deconstruct-y!

“Aw, fuck.”

Perhaps that’s an unfairly generalized summary of the film, but I think it’s worth noting that I’ve stripped away all the fairy tale elements; if you do not enjoy fairy tales (or musicals, for that matter), then that bare-bones almost-a-twist story structure probably won’t hold your interest, in the same way that Scream‘s analysis of slasher flicks isn’t going to tide you over if horror isn’t your cup of blood. If you love all the magic and morals, though, maybe this Avengers-ing of your favorite bedtime fables pushed gently through the Disneyfication filter is a lot of fun! For me, though, a bunch of public domain characters I already know wander through each other’s stories, things get mucked up, and nobody’s happy. This is… clever? It seems to be aiming for Freud, but it lands on Shyamalan.

Let’s not be too mean, I’ll narrow that down to “early Shyamalan.”

Bottom line, I get what they were going for, but I didn’t enjoy watching them go for it. I dunno, maybe it would work better as a straightforward non-fiction analysis?

THE ACTING:
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA,” I said when I heard that Meryl Streep bagged an Academy Award nomination for her role as a witch costume from Spirit Halloween. But, now that I’ve seen the movie, I am qualified to add, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, also, her singing is just okay.”

Woods Witch

*farts* *Oscar*

Johnny Depp is shitty boring weirdo Johnny Depp again (please get here sooner, Black Mass), but this time he has whiskers. He’s a rapey pederasty wolf. Nope, Disney didn’t tone that down, big thumbs-up from The Mouse. Johnny was more fun as a barber. And even more fun when he gave a shit.

Don’t look so surprised.

Does the idea of Anna Kendrick as Cinderella excite you? Me too! But only if she was the lead in her own movie, not just one of twenty-eight characters playing Blair Witch tag in princess cosplay. She was great the one or two times she wasn’t obscured by a tree.

Out of the woods and into my heart, please.

This movie has the honor of being the first time I really dug Chris Pine’s performance in anything. (Unstoppable was great for reasons that aren’t him.) This time, he’s the Prince of Douchiness (which I just assumed was printed at the top of his acting résumé already), chasing after any skirt he can nibble his way up. I guess people complained because this prince is supposed to be the same actor as the wolf but NO, they would have made Johnny this guy and I would have taken a fucking nap.

Don’t kill my Pine!

James Corden is a lovable little baker and Emily Blunt is a lovable little baker’s lovable little wife. Their desperation and confusion and loneliness go well together. I like ‘em!

Yay!

It feels like I’ve only covered a sixteenth of all the characters in this fucking thing but that’s everybody on the DVD cover so let’s move on—wait. Little. Red. Riding. Hood. I absolutely hate picking on child actors, but YOU. You can go wrap duct tape around your excessively loud and shitty mouth because you are an insufferable Idina Menzel Mini-Me that sings exactly like you’re a producer’s niece. Maybe you trained classically or took Broadway by storm, but for now, go. Leave. Enough of you.

Get lost. Isn’t that your thing?

THE SONGS AND DANCES:
I’m calling it; I don’t like Sondheim. This goes too far beyond the possibility that all film adaptations of his work might be sub-par. In Into the Woods, the lyrics are just dialogue that goes up and down, important words get repeated until they sound weird, and the tunes don’t stick with me. Also, when I went to look up which songs were which, the opening is simply called “Prologue (Act I)” and it encompasses an assload of characters. I remember almost nothing about the songs themselves, so me recapping them would just be a list of the scenes that happen around them. Packing it in right now feels lazy, though, so here’s what I’m gonna do: I’m going to tell you all the times I remember my partner Emily piping up during a song while we watched, because she is obsessed with a filmed stage version of Into the Woods she saw on PBS years ago and that is at least something.

Casting aside her groans at how bad Ms. Hood’s singing is (because I groaned too), I recall being entertained by Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen having a princely splash fight in a waterfall as they sing “Agony” about the women they pine (and magnussen) for. It’s campy and silly and fun and I’m pretty sure Emily said something along the lines of there being no waterfall in the play. Neat! Now you’re learning! Maybe! There is value in what I’m telling you!

Ironic title for the song that caused me the least agony.

Oh, and I guess they radically changed the situation for “On the Steps of the Palace.” Apparently, in the stage version, Cinderella is retelling the story of what happened to her at a royal ball, but in the movie, time actually freezes as Anna Kenrick becomes stuck to the steps due to the tricky Pine-scented prince putting down a layer of pitch to trap her.

Woods Pitch

“Pitch? Perfect!”

Lastly, Emily definitely complained that the big “Finale” was shot in such a way that it failed to actually bring home the entire message of the story, as the camera pans up to reveal some beautiful sunshine like we’re still getting a happy ending, rather than leaving us to think about the sorts of things we tell our children. I think I got it, though I suppose if I did, I would have enjoyed myself more. I dunno. I’m done with this.

Woods Shire

Wait a minute, is that the Shire?
Run, it was a three-hour Peter Jackson bloatfest in disguise this whole time!

I THINK THIS LINE’S MOSTLY FILLER:
Nothing drives me crazier than when a supposedly profound lyric is so dumbed-down simplified that it actually reduces to an equation that explains nothing whatsoever. (See: “The past is in the past” from Frozen.) Check out this line from “Moments in the Woods” and see if you can spot the “x=x” logic that fails to explain the purpose of the woods…

Woods Sherlock

“That’s what woods are for,
For those moments in the woods…”

FINAL THOUGHTS:
I wish this was bad instead of just… existing. But I existed through it and now I’m finally done with that whole “four musicals for every decade” thing. I’m burnt out on the blandness of more recent musicals and I long for the catchy melodies and intricate choreography of the classics. It’s time to go back.

NEXT WEEK:
42nd Street (1933)