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GROUNCHY GROWNUP REVIEW OF INTO THE WOODS

2014 rating: **
In any musical, the songs should be unique, setting apart each sequence while moving the story along instead of, in this particular case, every tune sounding so similar, it's like each character were taking a piece of the same thread, tying it around the same tree, over and over again… and again and again… like a scratched record... Or fingernails on a chalkboard.

An hour feels like three, but INTO THE WOODS isn’t without artistic and creative value. Whereas TITANIC added unknown characters into a known (true) story, here we have a common baker and his wife intertwined within a handful of fairy tails including Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella and of course, Little Red Riding Hood… And with the promotion of Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf, you would think he was more important – but JD's a tiny shriek of a howl compared to the other players, all lost within a busy maze that is sometimes entertaining and other times, just plain redundant.

A Johnny Depp Cameo
The funniest number has our two handsome studs, Cinderella’s Prince and Rapunzel’s Prince, outdoing each other's sorrow and rejection, providing genuinely witty satire and giving the characters a tongue and cheek platform. At certain moments throughout, right when the movie gets humorous the characters take themselves too seriously, and vice versa. Yet Chris Pine in general seems to realize an important element: this is a parody liken to THE PRINCESS BRIDE… And here we catch the tail end of each famous tale: For example, Cinderella’s dance with the prince and Jack’s adventures in the clouds are spoken of and dealt with afterwards, which can be frustrating... It feels like we're missing all the good parts.

Meryl Streep plays the Witch who cursed the Baker’s wife, sending the couple on a scavenger hunt (also the main plot) to retrieve one item from each story including Red Riding Hood’s Red Hood, Jack’s cow and Cinderella’s slipper. Streep, who gets nominated on an annual basis, feels like a special guest star; her input is nothing special, really. The two most talented performers are the youngest: Jack and Little Red were probably hired for their voices, both obvious "ringers" to legitimize this patchwork musical that occasionally breaks into dialogue.
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