Either you love or loath musicals. Some find them so enjoyable they own soundtracks upon soundtracks of original Broadway cast recordings while other people can’t comprehend why singing about what’s happening belongs in a movie. Unfortunately, I always land in the middle of this debate. When done right I love a good musical. It’s hard to adapt Broadway to film, though.
Take “Les Mis” for example. I hate it. It makes no damn sense to me. Why. Torture. But “Wicked?” That’s genius.
I’ll admit I’m cultured but I had never heard of Steven Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” until word went around that Disney was bringing it to the big screen. Like with all films that intrigue me, I do my research. I learned that “Into the Woods” is a very big deal to theater (theatre if you must) people. It takes classic Grim fairy tales and tangles them together and changes their seemingly happy endings. The music is good, I don’t mind it. And the main point I think I’m supposed to get from the story is that happily ever after doesn’t always exist in real life the same way it does in fairy tales.
As someone who enjoys movies with darker themes, I really liked the idea of “Into the Woods.” With that being said, this is not a movie for children. As I sat in the theater earlier today next to a mom and her two young boys I couldn’t help but wonder if the little boys even understood what was going on. One group of kids behind me was whispering in confusion over why the story suddenly got sad and one kid in the room even started to cry at one point.
That’s when I realized that I had finally found a musical for me. Dark, yet somehow happy in it’s own weird way. A fairy tale for grown-ups with fun music and Chris Pine.
Oh Chris Pine. I wish I could say that Meryl was the obvious scene stealer (she was in many scenes), but in my super biased opinion (I love Captain Kirk) Pine was the best part of “Into the Woods.” He sang like a champ and he was hysterical. The packed theater was cracking up at him, which made the comedy fan in me very proud.
But even then I realized that his humor was lost on most of the kids there. The two very rude teenage girls seated directly behind my brother and I said very loudly at one point “Why do they keep laughing at him? What’s so funny?” That’s when I knew for sure that “Into the Woods” was not a kids’ movie.
It’s hard then to judge whether or not Disney’s version of the Broadway hit actually works. After all, isn’t Disney’s main theme “happily ever after?” It goes against everything they’ve build over the years. And musicals are hard to adapt for film. “Les Mis” was such torture for me because it was so damn long. “Into the Woods” isn’t nearly as long, but somehow I felt like it was lacking something. It wasn’t bad. For a film adaption it was quite good, but at the same time I know that it will be lost on some people.
It won’t win any big awards. Possibly a Globe shot for Emily Blunt because she is beautiful and perfect, but like “Les Mis” it can’t possibly be mainstream. But that’s kind of what Broadway is all about. Musicals have never been the cool kid at the party. “Into the Woods” will only be appreciated by those who dare to understand it’s beauty. And Chris Pine.