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"Into the Woods": Big-Deal Musical Is Surprisingly Lo-Fi 

Tuesday, Dec 23 2014

The music of Stephen Sondheim is its own special effect, and Rob Marshall wisely doesn't try to overshadow it in his film of Sondheim's Into the Woods. Fairytale figures such as Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), the Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt), and Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) of the Beanstalk fame all venture into their mutual woods on various missions, watched over and occasionally led by the Witch (Meryl Streep). Into the Woods is a wonderfully odd bird, charmingly lo-fi for a big Disney holiday release. No real attempt is made to hide the picture's theatrical roots, or that much of it is filmed on a soundstage. The people and the songs are what matter, not gratuitous spectacle. This may also be as close as the Mouse ever gets to acknowledging the darker sexual themes of some original fairy tales, particularly Johnny Depp's cameo as the Wolf, dressed like an extra from The Wiz and singing a song of pedophilic menace. The pace lags a bit in the third act, though the jeopardy of a giant on the loose is made more interesting by the use of an actual human on forced-perspective sets rather than pixels to portray said giant. Like fats, oils, and Johnny Depp, Into the Woods knows that CGI is best used sparingly.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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