In film, we are used to having a narrative that takes characters through a story. Sometimes that narrative is from a narrator off-screen, or an internal voice inside a character. At other times, that device that keeps the story going is the dialogue and actions of the characters themselves.
Every so often, when Broadway has its influence on a production, that narrative is sung.
Disneyâ€™s presentation of "Into The Woods" was released a couple of weeks ago. I had the opportunity to screen the Blu-ray edition.
Letâ€™s start out with the obvious, and the best part of the film. Anna Kendrick as Cinderella is the perfect casting. Kendrick, who had roles in the Twilight films, "Up In The Air" and "Pitch Perfect," is a wonderful singer and she proves it with her performance.
Beyond that, this film has some issues.
You would have thought that the stars were aligned with the producers of "Wicked" Marc Platt and Callum McDougall teamed up with Rob Marshall of "Chicago" and John DeLuca of "Nine." Marshall gets to direct a talented cast with Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine behind the music and lyrics.
And the cast, led by Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Kendrick and Chris Pine, are some of the best-known names in the movie business.
But the story was far from enchanted as nursery rhyme characters venture out into the woods. The woods itself is meant to be a character. But the movie-makers just let dark lighting create the dark mood. The characters at times were hard to see. There are other ways to portray "dark" beyond just shutting off the lights on the sound stage.
The story pacing seems disjointed as well. I found my mind wandering more than once during slow scenes that set up to virtually nothing. Iâ€™m a fan of the live theater, and a fan of musicals. I just have a feeling that "Into The Woods" would be more enjoyable as a stage production and some of the magic is lost in this film version.
The Blu-ray combo pack does offer some nice extras that fans of the musical would enjoy. Meryl Streep performs a new song made for the movie that wasnâ€™t used in the final cut. "Sheâ€™ll Be Back" was meant to strengthen the connection between the Witch and Rapunzel, played by MacKenzie Mauzy.
"Deeper Into The Woods" is an extra that shares the story of what it took to get the production from the stage to the screen and the designing of the woods and the costumes for the characters.
Also, each song is segmented with sing-along lyrics for the viewer to create their own woods in the living room.
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