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I went "Into the Woods" and found a Dark and Glorious Place! (my take on the movie)

I won't be seeing a movie Christmas Day.  Instead we'll be at my sister's for Christmas dinner, too much champagne and a few rounds of charades in which I expect the movies of the day to put in an appearance. Unbroken, Foxcatcher, Nightcrawler, Wild. I can see my sister flapping her arms around the room doing Birdman. I can hear the big groan coming from whoever pulls Inherent Vice from the hat. That'll be one of the hard ones. Into the Woods should be good, just the right amount of challenge. 

But, if I was to try to leave the big family celebration, to slip out early to see one of the movies opening Christmas Day, it would be to see Into the Woods. We watched a screener but I enjoyed it so much, I'm looking forward to seeing it on the big screen too. I haven't had time to write up my thoughts before now; Christmas busyness and all, so I'm taking some time to do that this morning while everyone is still asleep. (Late night Christmas eve party at grandpa's house always gets our Christmas Day off to a late start)

Briefly — because it is Christmas — Into the Woods is a movie that takes you on an emotional journey and leaves you feeling joyous and uplifted. I was thrilled to see Meryl Streep once again didn't disappoint as she mastered the part of the witch; she struck all the right notes, and I'm not just talking about her singing. Streep just owned the complexity of the witch's character. The last time I saw Emily Blunt was in The Edge of Tomorrow in which she was funny and fierce; she's funny here too playing The Bakers Wife with a sharpness and a real knack of melting at the sight of the prince.

Anna Kendrick is a modern day Cinderella, perfectly cast as the young woman who realizes it's not all about finding the right man, you've got to find yourself too, know what you really want. Not overly cloying and pretty, her brain very much in evidence and she proves again here she can sing.  Christine Baranski seems born to play the wicked stepmother, and seeing Tracy Ullman again after what feels like a long absence reminded me how talented she is. Where has she been? She's Jack's mother here.

I loved Jack, in part because he was young Gavroche in Les Miz. Seeing him here — doing a great job — felt like I was reconnecting with a young nephew, watching him grow up. I resisted the urge to pinch his cheeks and say, My! How you've grown! Chris Pines was drop dead fantastic as the prince, sexy, arrogant, hilarious, as was his lesser known counterpart 'The Other Prince' played by Billy Magnuson.

James Corden delivered a complex, multilayered performance as the Baker, it was easy to see why the attractive Baker's Wife fell in love with the slightly chubby, hard working busy baker. I'll be trying to stay up late, watching Corden as he takes over the Craig Ferguson show, a very strange career choice, indeed. (I'll miss Craig too).

Johnny Depp was gloriously, purposefully over the top as the Wolf, preening and lusting after Little Red Riding Hood in a spot on performance by Lilla Crawford. Crawford is new to film but not to stage, she starred in James Lapine's production of Annie a few years back, she shines here too. Director Rob Marshall kept Depp's part short and sweet. The sets were incredible, a magical mix of reality and make-believe and the clothes, well the costume designs by  were simply perfect. James Lapine wrote the screenplay and translated it to film flawlessly. Into the Woods was everything you'd expect from this dark fairy tale. In short, seeing the movie felt like I'd gone to see the show on stage; I felt glorious and alive. Disney, despite all the worriers, allowed the filmmakers to go deep and dark and get it right. I'd go Into the Woods any day.