Ian (lovingboth) wrote,

Nice is different than good

As it's my favourite musical, I did wonder what the film version of Into The Woods was going to be like, and I am happy-ish to report that it's ok.

Certainly it's a lot better than Rob Marshall's attempt at doing Chicago, another favourite musical. That involved trying to make all the characters 'nice' (despite half of them being murderesses), frantic editing to disguise the fact that half his cast can't dance, losing all the references to homo- and bisexuality, and some very soggy sounding orchestrations. Clearly not everyone agrees with me - I know Katy doesn't and, incredibly, it won the 'Best Picture' Academy Award. Presumably most of the voters hadn't seen a good stage production and it would be very interesting to know how much it won by.

Unfortunately, Into.. does have many of the same faults. Fortunately, the orchestrations are fine, but some of the characters are made nicer and at least two deaths are softened. (It didn't have to be made by Disney!)

Meryl Streep in particular is miscast - if you're going to have her in this, make her The Giant's Wife, not The Witch: she has to sing... For the others, Jack speaks with Hollywood's version of London English, and Little Red Riding Hood with something distinctly American. It's ok to cast children in this, but it does mean that a couple of unnecessary fudges and changes are made.

The biggest issue is that they've messed around with the structure. Amongst the things that make the show such a great piece is that it's very much in two halves. Because of how the first act ends, some of the audience inevitably think that's the end of the show (and there's a schools version where it is!) You could say that in the first, nearly everyone gets what they want, and in the second and darker half, everyone gets what they deserve...

By ditching the narrator - there is narration, but it's now by The Baker - and losing the reprise of Agony, they've lost both of the comic bits of that darker second half. So what should be a time of great contrast has been noticeably blanded out from both directions.

Some of the other songs have gone, to be replaced by dialogue. Sadly, almost none of the additional dialogue - the replacement bits and the additions elsewhere - works as well as the original.

There are good bits: the first Agony is very good (this makes it even more annoying that the second one is cut) and the visual freezing of time for On the Steps of the Palace works very well. The cinematography is good and the editing is fine.

So JA - who knows this one forwards and backwards - and I liked it, but we both agreed it could have been much, much better... The DVD will certainly be bought, and I hope it has more than one song that was cut from it as an extra.

This entry was originally posted at http://lovingboth.dreamwidth.org/537232.html, because despite having a permanent account, I have had enough of LJ's current owners trying to be evil. Please comment there using OpenID - comment count unavailable have and if you have an LJ account, you can use it for your OpenID account. Or just join Dreamwidth! It only took a couple of minutes to copy all my entries here to there.

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