Into the Woods
Release Date: December 25, 2014
Cast: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ulman, Christine Baranski, Johnny Depp
Director: Rob Marshall
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Genre(s): Musical, Fantasy
Based On: Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
I was extremely excited to see this film – I have an unabashed love for Chris Pine (those blue eyes, though) and I live for Anna Kendrick’s voice ever since she walked into the communal shower, hung up her towel, and sang “Titanium” with Brittany Snow in Pitch Perfect.
Into the Woods is Disney’s crack at a Broadway adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical of the same name. I was worried after I heard that Disney was the studio funding Into the Woods, mostly because the original play has a lot of sexual innuendo and dark themes.
Disney handled the risqué subject matter on the big screen probably as well as they possibly could have – one of the scenes in the second act was downgraded from salacious sex to an illicit kiss, and the scenes with Little Red Riding Hood still managed to be weirdly sexual as a nod to the original source material.
All in all, Disney adhered to the source material fairly well – the songs from the musical remained intact when they transferred to the big screen, and the movie managed to shave off 30 minutes of the original play’s runtime without compromising the plot.
I’m not going to spoil the plot for those of you who haven’t seen the original musical, but Into the Woods is a twisted retelling and interaction between classic fairytale characters. The main story centers around a baker and his wife who are trying to conceive a child; in order to do so, they have to go into the woods to find a series of items to break the curse which left them barren.
Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Jack and the Beanstalk all make appearances along the way.
The cast is fantastic.
The source material is on point.
The visuals were stunning.
I was rooting for it to succeed.
All in all, this movie should have been fantastic.
In parts, it was. Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella was sweet and conflicted and had a fantastic voice, Meryl Streep as the witch was flawless, Johnny Depp was appropriately creepy as the wolf, and the two princes contributed the funniest scene in the whole movie (“Agony”).
I could not fault a single actor for their performance in this film. But for some reason, I didn’t enjoy this movie very much – all the parts by themselves were extremely well done, but I just found myself not caring about the characters.
Emotionally, the movie was flat.
There was no emotional resonance to the storyline. I couldn’t care when things went south for the characters in the second act. It felt long, and the second act, though dark, was Disney-dark. The film just didn’t convince me to care because the stakes and the danger felt glossy and Disney-ified. Honestly, I would have preferred if Disney cut the second act entirely instead of provide us with this rendition.
Final Thoughts: Overall, I left the movie wanting to listen to portions of the soundtrack again (particularly “Steps of the Palace” and any other Anna Kendrick number) and watch some of the better scenes from the first act (“Hello Little Girl” and “Agony”’s scenes, in particular), but other than that, the movie was a little too long and emotionally flat for a second watch. It is worth seeing once for the talented ensemble cast, especially if you’re a fan of the original Broadway production, but maybe only when it’s on DVD.
When I first saw the trailer for Into the Woods, I was very ‘meh’ about it. It didn’t seem all that interesting and I could’ve cared less about all the mashed up fairytales. Boy, was I wrong. I enjoyed every minute of the movie. It was hilarious (Chris Pine & Billy Magnussen killed it in their singing duet), sad, and well-rounded. There were multiple storylines that eventually all tied into each other. It also focuses more on the Grimm fairy tales than Disney. I judged a book by its cover and I’m glad I went to go see the movie still because it was fantastic.