Once upon a time Stephen Sondheim wrote a musical classic INTO THE WOODS. The first act brings together classic fairy tale characters into one comic misadventure and the second act debunks the “happily ever after” myth and transforms the whole play into a masterpiece about virtually all the Big Stuff: growing up, parenting, marriage, death, rebuilding after great loss.
It made me feel excited. well, excited and scared.
Isn’t that how devotees of the movie musical feel each time a new one arrives? A bit of background to justify the high-anxiety. The live-action movie musical died alongside Bob Fosse's alter ego in All That Jazz (1979). The genre was six feet under for two full decades despite intermittent attempts at excavating its exquisite corpse (Annie, Little Shop of Horrors, Newsies). The Disney animation renaissance of the 1990s renewed interest and the genre was successfully reborn at the turn of the century by the one-two-three-four punch of Dancer in the Dark, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Moulin Rouge! and Chicago. That's a four consecutive high quality film run that this ancient-newborn genre has yet to match since. And why is that exactly? Some people blame the lack of strong directors who are skilled in the form, others the resistance to new blood (nearly all modern musicals are adaptations). Still more culprits are Hollywood’s frequent miscasting since musical skill is considered optional.
But The Witch (Meryl Streep) would like us to stop bitching and get on with this review.
No, of course what really matters is the blame
Somebody to blame.
Fine, if that's the thing you enjoy, Placing the blame,
If that's the aim, Give me the blame-
So back to Into the Woods . Does it survive the transfer? With so much baggage brought into the movie theater I’ll admit that a traditional review has been tough to write. So herewith a ranked list of the musical numbers (in their current form) as a sneaky way to coax out all those thorny blinding feelings.
The list, from worst to best, is AFTER THE JUMP...