Into the Woods

Rob Marshall’s Chicago won honors from the Oscars and Golden Globes in 2003. It was hailed as having, miraculously, revived the moribund Hollywood musical. To my ears and eyes, Chicago was a surreal. high-wattage spectacle of music and dance that retained much of the original Broadway show’s contagious staginess. Marshall’s film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods is not nearly as fresh and electrifying (no pun intended), and for one who holds great affection for the stage version of this cagey show, Marshall’s picture feels enervating and forced. It’s not a bad film, and it has the blessing of both Sondheim and James Lapine who wrote the book for the stage show and the screenplay. It’s just that it seems out of place and out of step on the screen. Probably my bias. Yes, all of the principal players in this fantastic (and insightful) story of quests for wish fulfillment are fine. James Corden and Emily Blunt are particularly good as the childless baker and his wife. Their duet “It Takes Two” is the high point of the movie for me. (The moms in the audience seemed to delight in Chris Pine’s and Billy Magnussen’s dreamy narcissism as miserable princes in the duet “Agony.” Me? No so much.) Still and yet, Meryl Streep seems a lazy choice as the vengeful witch whose charge to the baker and his wife to go “Into the Woods” to lift a curse starts the play’s fateful events. Of course, she hits the notes and her marks but what’s the fun in that? She’s a world-class performer when an unknown would have added spice. See it if you must but rent the DVD of the 1991 stage production with Bernadette Peters as the witch and Joanna Gleason as the baker’s wife, too.


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