Towards the end of the year I always get caught up in the excitement and glut of Christmas releases. It usually leads from high hopes to holding up films in quality thanks to holiday cheer. It fades, like a dream when Christmas is a time of promise and love is over. And since love is also about accepting flaws in face of signs of promise, Into The Woods is recently the most frustrating film to show.
Adapted from the prolific Stephen Sondheim musical that I’ve never seen but would now like to, by his frequent collaborator James Lapine the audience is brought Into the Woods by Chicago director Rob Marshall.
The movie is at times separately enchanting and funny and can be both as it lends itself to another medium in broader scope. The film feels like an attempt at a mostly stick to your ribs adaptation with the appropriate Disney-ification of the darker elements. Nevermore has a movie ever cried out for Tim Burton.
The songs are good, the actors are well cast, and with the tone shifting downbeat in the last act it’s all fine, what’s less so is how it goes about it all over the place. There are sprays of humour fairy dusted in here and there and some interesting dramatic twists and moments the movie pulls off but its all too spotty. Also like most Broadway adaptations the film drags particularly in its last act (which is why I liked Annie).
That last part is ok, and not unwelcome as it is not a rude film. And I admire its scope. I liked these characters, they mean well and they point to bigger dreamier and more daring ideas but they aren’t pulled together tightly enough or pushed in the same direction by a director with a clear focus. It seems in drawing itself thin to cover the right bases the film finds itself lost in circles, never to regain its way.