Into The Woods Review

With a child-molesting wolf, a baby stealing witch and an adulterous wife, this fairy tale is definitely not your normal Disney fare. Into the Woods has long been a fan favorite on Broadway, but finding it's way to the big screen hasn't been quick or easy by any means. While there are some changes to the original masterpiece, Into the Woods is a pretty faithful adaptation of Sondheim's beloved play that translates well to the big screen.

I'll admit, outside of Disney movies, I'm not a musical seeking kind of girl. In fact I mostly avoid them at all costs, all that singing really gets on my nerves. On the stage its a different thing, but mostly the big screen version can't capture the magic of a live performance, even with its fancy special effects. But knowing that this would be a mashup of Grimm tales, which I love, and had a stellar cast, Into the Woods looked intriguing as a movie. Combining the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack and the Beanstalk, Into The Woods strings them together with the tale of a Baker and his wife who must reverse a witch's curse that's preventing them from becoming parents. She needs four items, all of which she hasn't touched, to break the curse, and they only have days to do it.

The entire tale is steeped in Freudian metaphor from sprouting beanstalks to ransacked gardens. Happily ever after changes as the ensemble tackles dreary topics as death, infidelity and child abandonment, but they do it with with flare that none of the topics seem overbearing.

The casting really is spectacular. Meryl Streep broke her no witch policy to play the Witch, and while she is over the top at times, its really a part that has to be overacted and have plenty of flash, which it does. Johnny Depp plays another character that fits in well with the rest of his character work. As the wolf he's both lecherous and rapacious. He's possibly the creepiest character ever to crawl into a Disney film, as he stalks the prepubescent Riding Hood while singing the disturbing song "Hello, Little Girl." Depp is probably the only person who could get away with this performance, in all honesty.

Anna Kendrick showcases her beautiful pipes, but from her Pitch Perfect performance, we already knew that she could sing, so her performance wasn't too much of a surprise. Chris Pine is fantastic as Cinderella's Prince, he's just the right amount of ridiculousness, compared to the rest of the cast he's an absolute ham, but his portrayal is spot on the play version. James Corden is the baker. He's not a well known name like many of the rest, but he is spectacular, and hard not to root for. Lilla Crawford's Little Red Riding Hood is an absolute scene stealer, which is a good thing as she replaced the actress who originally had the role. Daniel Huttlestone's Jack is equally good, pilfering plenty of scenes. Mackenzie Mauzy makes an enchanting Rapunzel. The biggest surprise though, comes from Emily Blunt, who is absolutely impressive as the baker's wife. She's sultry without effort, and her singing voice is quite lovely. Is there anything that she can't do?

Tragically there is no “Agony” reprise with the Princes lusting after Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. They aren't mentioned at all, and with the fun captured with the first “Agony” its a shame that the reprise was skipped. There are other deaths that are not played out as well, that are in the play, one of which makes the Witch's lament a little less poignant, and feel more temper tantrumish. Another thing missing is a lot of the humor. In the Woods is suppose to be dark true, but the biting humor, which plays such a big part of the play is missing. While everyone plays their roles pretty straight laced, only Pine gets to be truly humorous throughout, and Billy Magnussen only gets to join him in the silliness during their “Agony” number.

Into the Woods is a very modern and fun interpretation of fairy tales that we're all familiar with, given a grown up make-over. It's not as immersive or inventive as it could be, but it does stay fairly close to the source material. Some of the scenes and numbers feel overly long, but the brilliance of the performances make a jaunt into the woods worthwhile.


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