In the last few years Hollywood has become a factory of reproduced material with very few original ideas coming to the mass market. Movie theaters have become homes to movie versions of books, plays and musicals with a few scattered films here and there and while each of these films put a new spin on things the reproduced ones lack that special element that their predecessors had.
The latest reproduced concept is the Stephen Sondheim musical, Into The Woods. The musical play turned full-feature premiered on Christmas Day and has the critics at odds. Despite the negative, I went to see the film last night in the hopes that I would see a film version of the play I saw when I was a child. Plus, Johnny Depp was in it so of course, I had to go.
My husband, best friend and I went to the 9:50 p.m. showing at the Saw Mill Multiplex and I had high hopes for the film even though I knew that many of my friends who had already seen it were less than thrilled with what they spent $12.50 on. I knew the movie was going to be long so I prepared myself as best I could, meaning I got as comfortable as I could in the withering old seats in the theater. The film opened the way I remembered the play opening, introducing the main characters: The Baker, his barren wife, Jack and his mother, the Witch, the little girl in the red cape and the maiden wishing to go to the Prince's festival. The songs were all the same, unlike Les Miserables, who found the unwarranted need to add in an original song, which was definitely a relief however, some of the original elements were lacking. I was however, incredibly surprised at how much Meryl Streep's singing voice has improved since Mamma Mia. So much so that I turned to my best friend and said, "Where did that voice come from?"
Okay, what I am about to say is going to shock and surprise everyone who knows me and my uwaivering obsession with Johnny Depp but, his portrayal of the wolf was less like a hungry wolf and more like a dirty pedophile hunting for a young girl to take advantage of. While, because he is Johnny Depp, he looked sexy as a wolf and his singing was decent enough, he would have been far better suited for a different role in the film. Furthermore, his portion of the movie was a total of approximately ten minutes, which was incredibly disappointing. What wasn't disappointing was Chris Pine's singing voice. Who would have expected that coming from him? He was flawless as Cinderella's prince and added a wonderful element of comedy and sexiness that I wouldn't have anticipated. In fact the princes, including Rapunzel's prince, were the highlight of the movie as a whole. Anna Kendrick was equally as impressive as Cinderella. Her innocence and strength combined perfectly with her sensational voice to create the ultimate would-be princess.
One thing I did notice, granted its been many years since I've seen the original play, this movie was a lot darker than I remembered the play to be. I remembered Gaints being mentioned in the play but I had forgotten how dark and frightening they were but then again it's Hollywood so I am sure they were made darker and more vicious than the original play. This surprised me as I truly believed I was going to be seeing a somewhat feel-good film with a lot of comedy. I do remember the original play as being quite humorous, especially during the scene/song with the two princes, a scene that the movie did quite nicely.
Overall the film, although a little too long, was enjoyable and the music was just as catchy and beautiful as I remembered however, I would caution those who think they're going to see the original play in movie form that this is Hollywood. If you go into the theater thinking you're going to see the play you remember from your childhood you will be disappointed but if you go into the film with an open mind you might find yourself thoroughly entertained for two hours.