Into the Woods

Movie Review

When it was announced that Disney would making a film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s famous musical for “Into the Woods,” released in 2014, fans were all surprised. Joseph Walsh said in his review, “Would the House of Mouse keep true to the sinister tone of the original or would they coat it in sugar to make it more palatable for little ones? Tasked with keeping the theatre wolves from the door is director Rob Marshall, best known for his 2002 Oscar-winning show-stopper Chicago. What he has crafted is an entertaining and highly camp magical number.” Anyone who is not familiar with Sondheim’s original, it is a modern retelling of old fairytales that so many people grew up reading, but with a really modern twist.

In the movie, fairytale characters walk in and out of their own stories and the familiar becomes nicely disturbing. It is juvenile, but frighteningly risky in a lot of ways. There are very familiar characters, like Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), but in this version she is stuck with uncertainty on whether she really wants the Prince (Chris Pine). Then there is Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) a grouchy brat with a liking for shoplifting baked foods, haunted by a grinning, greedy wolf (Johnny Depp). There are also some less familiar characters played by James Corden and Emily Blunt as a Baker and his wife at the center of the story. Desperate to wanting a child, they are denied their wish thanks to a curse put on them by a cynical witch, played by Meryl Streep.

That same witch gives them a solution, on the condition they go into the nearby woods and get a series of objects so that she can make a richness potion. Walsh said, “In many ways the appeal is similar to Phillip Pullman’s Grimm Tales For Young And Old (recently adapted for the stage, playing in London’s Shoreditch Town Hall), which bridges the gap between younger and older audiences. Beneath the veneer of a magical tale is something altogether fundamental about human existence. Marshall has a long-running history with Sondheim, and he has clearly honoured the original, whilst making sure that his take is fully cinematic in scope. However, whilst the potential wrath of purist fans of the original will be placated, the film lacks spectacle.”

Walsh continued, “This is especially true when compared to Disney’s recent Maleficent (2014) – even with the presence of the redoubtable Frances de la Tour – perhaps in part due to the relatively small budget of $50m. There are also a few pacing problems, with a slump in the second act before a deeply satisfying conclusion. But the heart of the film that appeals most and underlying the medley of witty, frequently acid-tongued show tunes, is the concept that no matter how dark it gets, and however alone we feel we never truly are.” Along with a hilarious Emily Blunt (who once again shows nice comedic timing), Streep at her best, and Chris Pine in a painfully good performance, “Into the Woods” makes for a strange, really enjoyable time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *