Saturday, September 26, 2015
My favorite movie musicals tend to be the ones like Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952) and Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli, 1944) that were created for the movies, not adapted from stage hits like My Fair Lady (George Cukor, 1964) or West Side Story (Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise, 1961). But Rob Marshall did such a good job transforming Chicago (2002) into a cinematic experience that I had hopes for Into the Woods. But the James Lapine-Stephen Sondheim book and lyrics are so droll and cerebral that they tend to get swamped by the special effects and big stars in the movie. Instead of being caught up in the story, I kept wondering "how are they going to top that?" The book is structured to be anticlimactic, with the wedding of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and the prince (Chris Pine) as the usual happy ending followed by the dark not-so-happily-ever-after sequel. This works in the theatrical version, when you know that there's another act coming, but in the film version it has the effect of making you look at your watch. Still, there's a lot to like about the movie, especially seeing Meryl Streep ham it up as the witch. The other cast members are also effective, but the real star among them for me is Emily Blunt as the baker's wife, demonstrating good comic timing as well as a solid understanding of the character.