5 Reasons Why I Loved The Into The Woods Movie.

Like so many folks out there, seeing a movie on Christmas day has become a tradition.  I’m not sure when movie goin’ on 12/25 became such a thing, but it has (and it says a lot about how our society has changed over the past 50 years).  Yesterday, me and my new in-law family went to a local the-ate-er in Indiana and took in Into The Woods.

I liked it. We all liked it.  And here are my top five reasons why:

1.  SING! SING! SING!

Simply put – I loved Into The Woods because they cast singers!  I know, I know, movie musicals have got to go for the star power, and sometimes, on the smaller screen, voice has to take a back seat to acting (or “look”).  There have been some decent singers in the other movie musicals, but this time, all of the stars could sing like champs.  I’d cast them in a Broadway show any day of the week.  Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt . . . and that Meryl Streep.  I think that girl is going someplace.  Like maybe to the Oscar podium once again.

2.  I KNOW THINGS NOW, MANY BEAUTIFUL THINGS

I’ve seen Into The Woods at least a “baker’s” dozen times, and listened to it a hundred times more.  And still, it’s a tad bit confusing (Sondheim can write that way, let’s face it), especially that opening number with its multiple locations.  In the movie, it was super clear who everyone was, where they were headed and what the heck they wished for.  And the folks I was with that didn’t know the plot or all the lyrics to “You’re Fault!”?  They got it right away.

3.  JIMMY, MY JIMMY

If you saw James Corden in One Man, Two Guv’nors, then you know the guy is one of the best comedians to step on a stage (and now a screen) in a long while.  And although I was crushed that “No More” was cut, it was great seeing him perform a classic musical theater role . . . because we’re not going to get to see him do that again . . . maybe ever.  Sure, he was set to play Pseudolus in A Funny Thing this spring, but when he got the hosting gig on The Late Late Show, the production, and our dreams of the next great Broadway comedian, went poof.

4.  YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON STAGE

Whenever you choose an artistic medium of expression (book, play, movie), you have to make sure there is a reason that medium is better than the others.  This is especially hard when taking one form and adapting it to another.  Well, Into The Woods is about a magical fairy tale place.  And the visual effects they added to it made it that much more awesome.  The woods, the witch . . . the wardrobe.  The effects enhanced the story, and they made it even richer, while still paying homage to the original stagecraft (How about Little Red and Grandma in the wolf’s tummy!).

5.  STEVE GETS A SECOND

In one of my very first blogs, I wrote that I thought Sondheim was like the Shakespeare of the Musical Theater – a genius, but not necessarily something you want to watch all the time.  What’s super exciting is that in the modern era of musical movies (post Chicago, which restarted the revolution), Sondheim has had two movie musicals made.  While he hasn’t had the most commercial Broadway life lately (and nothing new, sadly), it’s awesome to see his classics head to the screen . . . and be seen by mass audiences who might not see them any other way.  And maybe, just maybe, they’ll head to Broadway the next time there’s a revival.

 

Have you seen it yet?  If so, tell me what you thought below.  And I’m going to go buy the recording now, just to hear that Meryl chick sing me to sleep with “Stay With Me.”  The best.  Just the best.

 

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Comments
  • Michael Seel says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Ken. I saw the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production in Los Angeles earlier this month and watched a DVD screener of ITW last week. Loved both equally.

  • Lynn Anderson says:

    Just saw it this afternoon and absolutely loved it! Missed a few things from the stage version, but of course they can’t include everything, or else we’d be there for 3 hours! Loved how they reorganized the order of the songs – made it very clear for those who weren’t familiar with the story! Two thumbs up!

  • Rick Knight says:

    I saw it today and the poignancy of the ballads made me cry, the whimsy of the lighter numbers made me smile and even guffaw. I sat there realizing that the best visual (and auditory) feats are truly those experienced cinematically. While there is a presence to a live production, the stage simply cannot live up to the well produced fidelity, cinematography and special effects of a production like this. It makes me wonder if musicals are headed more for the big (and small screen: citing the recent “Peter Pan” and the (rather ghastly) “The Sound of Music”. Matter of fact, it may be time to start crowdsourcing YouTube musicals pretty soon. With guerilla filmmaking, social networking, digital workspace post production, a small team with talented creators could come up with something pretty fierce. (I mean, if OK Go can do it on scooters and treadmills, why not a Broadway style musical?)

  • Scott says:

    Movies on Christmas Day?–that’s a Jewish “thing” that spread
    And, dont forget the Chinese food!!
    What else were we supposed to do?!?!
    🙂

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    I got to see an early November screening with the entire cast (except Big Bad Wolf JOhnny) present for a Q and A after. It was an electric evening. I agree about james corden. But he is still young enough to do the Late Late Show for a decade and then be a Broadway star. And hopefully, he can do some small film roles during hiatus weeks.

  • MichaelC says:

    First time in 10 years of first show Christmas morning with a nearly full theater. The place was quiet (not a single cell went off) and the numerous children in attendance seemed enthralled and totally enjoying a movie that I personally feared, as I saw them arrive, would be so far over their heads as to cause boredom. From the opening scene to the closing credits it was a very enjoyable experience. Loved Lilla Crawford, whom I just missed as “Annie” in the recent revival and was totally amazed by Daniel Huttlestone’s Jack. Didn’t realize Chris Pine could sing (and quite well) which simply adds to his overall charm. I’d love for Rob Marshall to tackle but “Merrily We Roll Long” (which could easily work better as a movie) and “Follies”(my own personal Sondheim show/score.

  • Billy Flood says:

    I cannot be as enthusiastic. Casting an all white ensemble in 2014 is a choice. A choice of exclusion and white supremacy for this “universal” story. Phylicia Rashad replaced Bernadette in the OBC and Vanessa Williams was in the revival. What a pity Disney in 2014 is years behind Broadway in 1989 in terms of opening the story for ALL to enjoy…
    I Wish… | Thekynegro29’s Blog http://thekynegro29.wordpress.com/2014/11/07/i-wish/

  • Corine Cohen says:

    You left out Annie on Broadway star as Little Red. In my opinion she has the best womens voice of the bunch. I love Streep as an actress but I really don’t think she is a singer but she is such a great actress she pulled it off. (FYI she is one of my favorite actors but not my pick as a singer)

    For me the standouts were Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen from Sonya, Masha, Pasha and Spike. They were incredible singers. Chris Pine blew me away as I never knew he came from a singing background. Did you also notice that Christine Pedi from Forbidden Broadway and Xanthe two Broadway singers sang back ground? That was interesting. Always stay for the credits.

  • Corine Cohen says:

    Little Red Riding hood was Lilla Crawford. She was so funny and her voice blew me away. Whenever she sings I cry. I adore her voice.

  • Andrew says:

    If you have a library card, you can subscribe to Hoopla and they offer
    the 2 cd set of INTO THE WOODS film soundtrack for free! Besides that, they also have
    a rather rare 1992 Viennese Cast Recording of this show [AB IN DEN WALD]
    as well. If you understand German, there’s also a scholarly discussion of Sondheim’s
    work as the last track. Given the Grimm Bros. fairytales as a source of much of
    this show, the German translation sounds great and makes a lot of sense!

  • John Olson says:

    Amazing movie! And amazing in the sense that it was even truer to the stage show’s intent than the stage show itself. They didn’t back away from the darkness or thoughtfulness of the “second act,” or bring the full cast to sing a peppy reprise of the title song.Nope, just ended it on the final four characters huddling together with Meryl singing “Children Will Listen” off-screen. Very powerful!

    The visualization throughout added clarity. The lyrics themselves were crystal clear Daniel Huddleston’s :”Giants in the Sky” was the best acted I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen the show a lot).

    I could go on. How great to see a Sondheim musical not only get such a good treatment but full-bore studio marketing support as well. This may be the vehicle to bring Sondheim to the masses. Or if not, it’ll be the best possible attempt to do so,

    • Robert Lazo says:

      Excellent review. I agree with you completely. I had only seen “Into the Woods” on stage once before. The story did not resonate with me until I saw it presented this way. The special effects, cinematography, and the music enhanced the magic of the story. My favorite part of the movie was the feeling I was left with in the end. To me, the moral of the story was: Life in the real world is not a fairly tale where you get what you want and live happily ever after. Life is not what you expect it to be. But, you are not alone. If you try to be a better person, It all works out in the end.

  • Gary says:

    Also went Christmas day at the Ziegfeld! Wow! Gorgeous
    Production. Agree, wonderful
    singing, acting, and direction.
    It’s exciting to be in a sold out movie theater and have the entire audience applaud
    after each musical number
    (as well as when the credits
    were rolling).

  • The movie was a major win for musical theatre junkies everywhere!

    “An Incomplete History of Into the Woods”

  • Martha Neider says:

    LOVED Into The Woods, and also saw it on Christmas Day with my “sister by choice” and her husband. The singing was wonderful, the atmosphere they created was outstanding, and the actors portraying the characters were spot-on. I LOVED the duet with the two princes on the waterfall. I recommend it highly.

  • Leah Curney says:

    Loved the movie. Loved your blog post. Agree with all your points 100%. Wonderful to see this story so well told and able to reach such a large audience.

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