Into the Woods’s Biggest Surprise

Chris Pine singing “Agony” in Into the Woods.

Chris Pine singing “Agony” in Into the Woods.

When I walked out of the new film version of Into the Woods on Christmas Day, I couldn’t believe what I was thinking: “Chris Pine, of all people, just outshone Johnny Depp.” While I was most looking forward to seeing Depp skulk around the woods in his Big Bad Wolf zoot suit and lasciviously sing “Hello Little Girl” to Little Red Riding Hood, he came and went so quickly (and sounded so much like a serpent-breathed Rex Harrison) that I thought he was… just…OK.

On the other hand, the audience seemed to want to break out into applause after Chris Pine’s big musical number, “Agony,” as he preened, strutted, and basked in his own glory as Prince Charming. Pine seems to be in on the joke that transcends this specific character and bleeds into his overall onscreen persona: at best, he’s handsome and likable (the Star Trek movies, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and at worse, he’s vapid and all-surface (as apparently are some of his choices of movie roles). However, maybe like with Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love and Channing Tatum in Magic Mike, I’ve come to the party late.

Pine has the acting pedigree, experience, and recognition that belies my initial oversimplified view of him. His parents and maternal grandmother were actors, and he studied English at Berkeley and acting at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. In addition to his extensive film and television work, his stage credentials includes Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig and Beau Willimon’s Farragut North, for which he won a Los Angeles acting award in 2009.

So, I’m not sure I would qualify as a “Pine Nut” (what his fans call themselves) yet, but I stand somewhat corrected.


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