Thursday 15 January 2015

Review: Into The Woods

World of Blackout Film Review

Into The Woods Poster

Into The Woods
Cert: PG / 125 mins / Dir. Rob Marshall / Trailer
WoB Rating: 2/7

Rob Marshall's celluloid adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical limps onto screens in the post-Christmas lull like a pantomime pulling a straight face; camp as a row of tents, but nowhere near as colourful. Or as useful. The story, a shared-universe crossover of well known fairytales taking place in the same woodland, is almost incoherent, desperately hoping that if enough plot-points and tropes are thrown at the viewer, enough of them will stick and might form a narrative in the process. They don't; Into The Woods is gibberish. But not creative, zany, who knows what could happen? gibberish. It's the sort where secondary - but fairly important - characters die off-screen (yes, really), central characters die from basically falling over (yes. really), and Johnny Depp is instructed to remove any semblance of metaphor from the Wolf character, and basically portray a cannibalistic child-molester in an ill-fitting suit (I wish I was joking).

But hey, the plot structure isn't critical, right? After all, we're here for a musical! Show tunes! Catchy songs! Right? Ah. Sondheim's cues all seem to blend into a single twee dirge with no memorable lyrics or melodies. The whole production has the rhythm and style of Broadway but feels completely directionless, as if the music round of Whose Line Is It Anyway? has been set up for "in the style of a West End Musical", and then just left to run for two excruciating hours while the audience file slowly out and the performers are too embarrassed to stop.

The whole debacle is only slightly (…JUST) saved by some decent performances beneath the charade of a screenplay. And it's a twisted version of reality that we live in where James Corden is one of the best things in a film. Emily Blunt Anna Kendrick and Meryl Streep also do their very best, but the roles are so haphazardly written*1 that you can see the desperation in their eyes. This will be on their CVs forever.

Oh, and Chris Pine has apparently been told to channel his best David Essex. Which, in fairness, he does and is truly bloody awful.

A stage-piece that should never have left the boards, Frozen took the Disney fairytale-story two steps forward, Into The Woods takes it one step back…*2

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Well, Mrs Blackout and myself went with my Unlimited card and an Orange Wednesday code, and we still feel hard done by (I actually think she enjoyed it less than me).

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
Oh, rent it if you must, but this won't be one for re-watching.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Not at all.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Be a crap cinematic-port of a substandard musical? It might, actually.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Into The Woods' Emily Blunt starred in 2012's Salmon Fishing In The Yemen alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi himself, Ewan McGregor..

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Case in point, just in case you thought there was going to be some kind of Grimm's Morality Tale at work here on the top-level, The Baker's Wife (one of the few sympathetic characters in the entire film) has a quick snog with Prince Charming in the woods in a slip of judgement, is overcome with guilt and then dies when she falls off a cliff, while Prince Charming isn't punished for being a sleazebag for the last two hours of your time, and rides off without any character closure. Yeah, spoilers. Whatever.
*2 Truth be told, I probably didn't hate it as much as this review would suggest, but I am inordinately annoyed at having sat through the whole debacle, and who wants to read someone going 'oh, it was probably okay but not really for me'? That's not the case, anyway. I don't mind a musical at all, this was just a crap one. Humph.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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