by Brenda W. Clough
This is a show, and a movie, about what we want. Do you really know what you’re wishing for? If and when you get it, will it pan out? Or will you discover that what you wanted was an illusion, something that you didn’t really want after all? And if that happens, how do you live with it?
All very mature questions, which makes this movie an unusual Disney movie indeed. Good Heavens, Walt, are you guys growing up over there? What happened to Cinderella assuring us that a dream is a wish your heart makes? But all the difficulties with the stage show are here on the big screen, without raw theatrical power to obscure them. (There has always been a problem with those giants, a deus ex machina that one has the sneaky feeling the had to resort to to get the plot moving.) So this movie is one of those valiant tries that is not quite successful.
Nevertheless this movie is well worth seeing. Visually it is a treat — the settings, the costumes. The score is, and shall ever be, delightful — better than the script. It is worth the price of admission alone to see “Agony,” as the two Princes rip open their shirts and try to out-angst each other. The film does reasonable justice to the Sondheim musical, but the unlucky composer has never been served well by the big screen. We have not yet seen the perfect Sondheim movie musical. My pick would be Follies. Because it would be such a titanic leap to the screen that the adapters would have to really bring something big to the table. Also you can hardly ever fail with showgirls. This would fit in great with Disney’s new Realistic Human Relationships marketing direction. Enchanted and Frozen put paid to the love at first sight some day my prince will come thing, and Into the Woods takes out the dreams come true happily ever after nonsense. Follies would move them on to the frustrations of aging and bad life choices. I don’t see how it could miss.
My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out from Book View Café.