I am always open to watching musicals filled with perfectly produced songs, though they do tend to get a little long. I was terribly excited for the film after watching the trailer. With so many actors I admire, I was sure it would be a blast. Of course I mean the good kind, not the boom kind.
Let me begin at the beginning with the narrator. Ah, the narrator, the cornerstone of every film that just couldn’t manage to tell a story without the help of an omnipotent voice guiding the audience through scenes.
Right from the “Once upon a time….”, the characters we are introduced to are from stories we’ve all heard a thousand times. Naturally, Cinderella gets the ball rolling (pun intended) and then we see little Jack, who is convinced his cow is male, and whose mum keeps smacking him on the head after looking at him affectionately. That really makes you wonder about the whole “mommy hits me ’cause she loves me” fallacy.
As you go through the first five minutes of the film, Anna Kendrick’s blatantly American accent begs the question, this far off kingdom, in a village on the edge of the woods, is that a joke about America: the colony? Seems too unlikely, so let’s move on. There’s the childless couple (the baker and his wife), who are really taken advantage of by Little Red Riding Hood who comes to stock up on food for Granny. She seems to eat through a lot of their inventory, and Emily Blunt just offers her more cookies, and naturally, a basket to carry them.
Jack is off to the market to sell Milky White, with more admonishments from his mom. She notices the birds flying toward the angelic call of Cinderella’s desperate song. Cindy wants help finishing her unending and ridiculous chores, because her parents taught her to be “nice”, “kind”, etc., read as PUSHOVER. After getting bitch-slapped, literally, she falls to the floor, while her evil stepsisters cackle.
“It’s the witch from next door”, possibly my favourite line from the movie. Followed by the entrance of her lifetime, Meryl Streep, AKA the Devil (from the movie, not reality) speaks the lines that make the movie, “It’s not what I wish, it’s what you wish”. A long convoluted explanation for the baker’s impotence reveals the witch is also Rumplestiltskin-y; she took his new-born sister away how-many-ever-years ago!
The baker’s father was an all-out horrible person, he stole not only loads of greens from the witch’s garden for his pregnant wife, he also stole the magic beans! This caused something terrible to happen to the witch: she lost her youth and beauty. The witch has some wonderful rhyming lines to impart her advice to the couple, as well as her conditions to remove her curse from them.
Everyone has a reason to go into the woods, for a baby, for money, to get to the king’s festival, and to visit grandma. Everything will be accomplished before dark, that’s the optimistic Disney voice breaking through.
Cindy gets her wish for an awesome dress to go to the festival in, courtesy of the willow tree she had watered for years with her tears, location: beside her mother’s grave. Her magical make-over includes a pair of heels/slippers as pure as gold.
The narrator catches us up on how Red seems to have wandered into an unfamiliar area of the woods. Mr. Wolf is Johnny Depp in a strange amalgamation of all the roles I’ve ever seen him in. Let’s just say he’s creepy. When he starts singing, it’s like every child molester come to the big screen in the form of a very strangely dressed individual. But when he talks about grandma’s brittle bones, somehow I felt less disgusted.
The witch’s purpose in choosing the slightly daft baker becomes clear when she reveals she cannot touch any of the objects she needs for her plan. He is hesitant to steal a kid’s cloak, how nice to see he has better morals than his dad who deserted him as a child. Despite possessing morals, the baker’s wife is quite possibly the only interesting/good thing about him.
This movie really reminded me why I hate Red Riding Hood. From her ear-piercing shriek when the baker tried to steal her cloak, to the way she has no intuition about the wolf, she is Annoying. In a Disney twist, the baker cut through the wolf’s stomach and let both red and her grandma out. Blood-thirsty grandma wanted help skinning the wolf, but the baker had places to be. The scene after that was more than a little disturbing, with Red describing her attraction to the wolf (Even Disney couldn’t avoid 50 shades!). The wolf’s stomach strongly resembled a cloth bazaar, with the stomach lining more like lining for a pretty purple dress.
On the plus side, Red gives the baker her cloak for cutting through the wolf’s cloth stomach and getting them out. We have the ever-helpful voice over telling us about how Cindy ran away from the first night of the king’s festival after dancing with the prince. His villain-style proclamation as she runs (for her life?), “I must find that girl”, strikes fear in my heart.
More singing, with Cindy explaining to the baker’s wife why Prince Charming just isn’t what she expected. The cow runs off just when Blunt notices the “slipper” on Cindy’s foot is fancy and pure as gold. She runs after the cow, and apparently spends the night chasing it without any luck. She meets up with her husband after he has been tossed huge cold coins that Jack stole from the giants home in the sky. Jack really loves the cow he was forced to sell and wants him her back.
Meanwhile, the prince who spies on Rapunzel and her “Mother”, the witch, runs into his brother(king’s heir) who is searching for Cindy. The pissing match in song is no better than a regular one, as they fight it out to see who has the better unattainable crush. The heir gets to see Cindy again at the second night of the festival, she went back. She is running away once when the nameless baker’s wife is coincidentally also running close by after she tricked Rapunzel and cut off a pretty long portion of her corn-yellow hair. Blunt nearly got the golden slipper, but Cindy is no longer a pushover, and she grabs it back from the desperate woman on the ground. Irony, anyone?
Blunt holds onto her Rapunzel hair scarf in awe as she hears Chris Pine’s say in a very deep voice, “The woods can be a dangerous place”. That gem comes from the heir as he pauses in his pursuit of Cindy to question Blunt about who the heck Cindy is. Way-to-state-the-obvious, ha? Everyone knows the woods are dangerous, even oblivious little Red and that’s why they HAD to make a movie about it.
The most amazing thing in the entire film happens just as the baker sits down in defeat because he really isn’t a very capable person, and shouldn’t have tried to send his wife back to the village, assuring her he could do it all himself. He sits down only to be lifted up as Milky White gets up. He sat on the cow and then falls to the ground for the second time in less than a minute!
Brief pause for another unintentionally epic statement from the baker, “Perhaps it’ll take two of us to have this child”.
The scene reuniting the baker and Blunt was a blur, the only thing I could see was the way Rapunzel’s braid was waved around and played tug-o-war with, before being tossed aside. Their hopefulness is totally ruined as Jack comes back with a golden egg to buy back his best bud. As they argue, and Blunt is horrified with her husband for taking money from a child, someone large, white and on the brink of death for the past hour, bites the dust.
Wearing the scarf, the baker is about to leave Blunt to find and buy another cow the next morning when Jack cuts down the beanstalk and something resembling an earth quake shakes the kingdom as the giant man falls down to earth and dies. That night, Cindy flees from the prince again. How has she been faster than a guy on a horse, especially since she has never worn heels before, and these seem pretty damn high. The sticky pitch on the stairs stops Cindy in her tracks this time, and time stops as she debates her options. Insecurities and indecision abound in her song, but after singing it through, she decides to leave behind a shoe and see what the prince does.
He watches her run off, since she has such speed in her extremely trip-worthy dress and with one heel on. As the prince pursues with his plan to test her shoe on every maiden in the village, he once again encounters blunt and lets her keep the shoe she bargained for and traded with Cindy. The callous toss from Cindy’s hand landed the last of six magic beans in the soil and started to grow but there was no one to see.
In classic Grimm’s fairy tale style, the stepmother cut her daughters’ feet to fit the shoe, but her plan failed as the peon noticed the blood dripping from the slipper and the other daughter fainted post losing part of her foot.
Ugh, snakes, that’s all there is to think about Rapunzel’s new home in a swamp. Did they really need to show us snakes to prove it is a horrible place? Definitely going to have nightmares, thanks Disney. The film becomes increasingly dark, as Rapunzel’s prince is revealed to be blind after the witch caught him and Rap in the tower and he fell into a wall of thorns and she was sent to my own personal hell sans her ridiculously long messy braid. That short minute of immense darkness is destroyed when the snakes don’t actually do anything to her, even though she probably stepped on a couple in her rush to get to the prince, and then her tears heal his eyes.
The intense scene with the resurrected cow really builds, as the devil witch imbibes the cow’s milk magic potion. There is an immaculate conception during the witch’s transformation, which leaves baker and wife very happy.
Everyone is happy, the movie can end now. But wait, there’s still that pesky second beanstalk that Cindy accidentally created. Havoc ensues and the film takes an unexpected turn in the form of the dead giant’s wife coming down the new stalk to find Jack. Oops. Though she looks fancy in her cool new dress and younger person skin, complete with shocking blue eye shadow, the witch has lost her magic as well as the trust of Rap, who sees her mother as a monster now.
The baker and wife are left searching the forest with Red, yelling Jack futilely. Too bad his name wasn’t Marco. They split up to find Jack faster, and leave their newborn with Red. I’m not touching that idea with a pole, it stinks so much. Blunt heads into one part of the forest and has an impromptu make-out session with the Prince, who is supposed to be slaying the giant, as per every fairytale, ever, or at least making friends with her to convince her to leave peacefully. Instead, he convinces the “peasant” to abandon monogamy in a time when they might be crushed. The baker finds the princess/Cindy at her mother’s grave, and their incredibly awkward conversation ends with her accompanying him back to his wife. Said wife is still making out with the prince, but he’s got to go slay the giant. She has a moral crisis which is resolved mostly by blaming it on the woods, but it really doesn’t matter since she is soon facing the repercussions of the earth-quake inducing movements of the giant. She falls off a cliff. This feels wrong, like she was punished for her moments of adultery. Not cool, Disney.
A beautifully crafted blame game ensues between the baker, Jack, Red, Cindy and the witch. She takes responsibility for it all, but wants to take Jack to the giant. She calls them “Nice, not good or bad, just nice” and herself “right”. Her fear of doom has her throwing away all she has left, some magic beans, and they fall all over the place with the “nice” group scrambling after them. Thunder, lightning, the whole shebang, and then she disappears into the ground.
The baker ditches his baby with Cindy, and wanders into darker parts of the woods. Deserting his kid like his dad leaves him hallucinating and he comes back after a good cry. Let’s use Jack as bait to get the giant stuck in the tiny mud pit where the witch was absorbed into the earth. Their hail Mary plan relies partially on the birds Cindy talks to. A little bird also told her that the prince had been straying. When she sees him, he explains this like a true prince, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere”. They break up, no one really cares.
The plan works, the giant is killed. The remaining people are going to live together, since their family members are dead or missing. My favourite characters died, I hate this movie now. It took them two hours to try to prove you need to be careful what you wish for. I learned that lesson, after I started watching the movie I had been hoping to watch for so long.
I don’t regret the time I spent watching it. The songs were amazing, and Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt were fabulous. If anyone is interested, it actually passes the Bechdel test, there were quite a few of moments of singing between women, that were not about men. None of the characters really had names except Cinderella, Rapunzel and Jack, so I think that category is definitely passed.