May 3, 2016

filmsgraded.com:
Into the Woods (2014)
Grade: 42/100

Director: Rob Marshall
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, James Corden

What it's about. A star-studded Disney musical based on the highly successful Stephen Sondheim Broadway show. The story is set in Medieval Europe, and is a mash-up of various Brothers Grimm fairy tales.

There's Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), off to visit her Grandmother (Annette Crosbie), who lives in a forest cottage. Naturally, Red encounters the big bad wolf (Johnny Depp), in a truly icky movie moment. Not to worry, as a child in a Disney movie, she is immortal, and saved by the baker (James Corden), apparently because the woodcutter's agent asked for too great a salary.

The baker is married to Emily Blunt, who craves a child. But she is barren, due to a curse cast on the baker's family by a witch (Meryl Streep), because the baker's late father stole magic beans. Now the plot makes total sense.

Anyway, to break the curse, the baker must acquire four objects in three days. The cow is secured from troublemaking tyke Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), in return for the aforementioned magic beans. The blonde hair is obtained from Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), the hottest woman in the movie. Red gives up her cape, and a golden slipper, after much effort, comes from Cinderella (Anna Kendrick, our top-billed star).

Cinderella and Rapunzel, of course, have romances with princes, respectively Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen. They expose their chests in a musical number than confirms the movie is targeted toward women, who presumably find such things amusing instead of annoying.

Rapunzel's mother is the witch. Cinderella's wicked stepmom is Christine Baranski, and the latter's two horrid grown daughters are Tammy Blanchard and Lucy Punch. Tracey Ullman has the misfortune to be cast as Jack's mother.

Although we don't get to see Jack climb the beanstalk (spawned by the magic beans) and steal the Giant's possessions, we do see the Giant (Frances de la Tour), who descends from the beanstalk wreaking havok and seeking revenge.

How others will see it. The Disney marketing machine managed to scare up only about a 200K worldwide gross. Reviews were mixed, but the movie did accumulate a total of eight nominations combined at the Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTA. No trophies were taken home, but Streep extended her streak of Oscar nominations in consecutive years to 87. (Okay, she actually only had 19 nominations in 36 years).

At imdb.com, the 97K user vote total is less than expected for a high profile Disney film based on a famous musical. The user rating of 6.0 is much lower than expected, at least from someone lucky enough not to see the movie in theaters. The ratings are highest from females under 18 (6.9) and lowest (5.5) from men in the 30s, who probably agreed with Meryl Streep that Jack should be sacrificed to the Giant. Anything to end the movie more quickly. Another significant spread is between U.S. (6.4) and non-U.S. (5.8) voters.

Most viewers were displeased. The first seven imdb user reviews (under Best filter) give the movie one star out of ten and add such comments as "horrible", "poor adaptation", "beyond awful", "very disappointed", "disturbing", "walked out", etc.

How I felt about it. I do have some nice things to say about Into the Woods, and I will lead with them out of fairness, or simply to get them out of the way. Let it be said that Sondheim's lyrics often have clever wordplay, Mackenzie Mauzy is pretty, Christine Baranski is well cast, and so is James Cordon.

That said, this is a movie with fundamental problems. There are too many characters with too many plot lines. We find it odd that Emily Blunt walks off a cliff, offscreen, and the Baker takes the word of a child that she is dead and doesn't even go off to bury her. Instead, Jack's mum is killed off as well, as is Red's family, so that the Baker can form a surrogate family with Cinderella, who would rather live in poverty than enjoy the good life with a prince. The resolutions are many and exasperating, and the only one we buy is Rapunzel deserting Meryl Streep for Magnussen. Get the hell out of Dodge, and don't look back.