Movie Review: Into The Woods (Fairy Tale Sing Along Edition)

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Into The Woods

What’s it about

Based on the Stephen Sondheim musical of the same name, Into The Woods revolves around a couple: The Baker (played by James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt). Years ago, the Baker’s father stole from their neighbour, the Witch (Meryl Streep). The loss of some magic beans cost the witch her looks and youth. In return, the Witch curses the home, rendering the Baker’s family barren. However, the Witch reveals that it is possible to reverse the curse. The Baker and his wife have to collect 4 items: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.

This sends the Baker and his wife into the woods, where their paths cross with many other Brothers Grimm fairy tale characters, (such as Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her prince (Chris Pine, Little Red Riding Hood, The Wolf (Johnny Depp), Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel) who have similarly ventured into the woods for their own reasons.

The Awesome

They’ve Got Pipes: Into The Woods is a show where people break out into song just about anytime and there are few lines that are not delivered by way of song. Thus, it is excellent that the cast actually contains some great singers. Thankfully, there are no Les Miserables Russell Crowes in this one. Instead, we get Anna Kendrick, who was so good singing in Pitch Perfect that she got her Cups song made into an actual single with a music video and everything.

Into The Woods

Fairy Tale Satire: A large portion of the appeal of Into The Woods is that it’s really a mockery of fairy tale stereotypes. Classic characters such as Little Red Riding Hood and Jack are given little character facelifts, Hood is kind of a conniving glutton, freely stealing sweet treats from the Baker and Jack is a dimwit who’s often derided by his mom for being in another world. Even the Pine’s Prince, is sort of a womanising and oblivious prince, instead of  the upright, men of honour we’re used to.

Performances: Again, Chris Pine, everybody! He is completely hilarious in just about every scene he’s in, playing his Prince with flair and sort of a straightness that’s required for such a caricature to work. In particular, a musical number with his princely brother, where they sing about the problems that princes face is absolutely a highlight of the film. Emily Blunt too, has a strong performance. She’s essentially the emotional centre of the film, serving as the slightly tortured but courageous foil to the Baker that he can eventually aspire to. And of course, Meryl Streep, the GOAT (greatest of all time) of acting doesn’t disappoint.

Not What It Seems: Even for a Disney flick, there is a sense of deeper, darker danger lurking around every corner of the film. There’s definitely some edgier than usual content in here, even if it’s toned down from the original Sondheim musical. Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha) then plays out the various themes of love, sex, insecurity and abandonment on screen with woods-inhabited horrors all over the screen.

Into The Woods

Not So Sure About That…

Dark, Dark, Dark Finale: Following the lead of its source material, the third act is pretty darn dark. The film even cleverly pitches a fake “happy ending” for all the characters involved, before turning everything on its head for a rather depressing final act. Although the intent is understood, this is where the movie struggles as it seems to lose its pace, struggling across to the finish line.

Verdict: 4/5

Faithful to its source material and aided by great production values, Into The Woods is a sterling example of stage to screen adaptations done right. Its infectious music score and blend of occasionally dark and heartbreaking themes while still retaining a very funny vibe throughout makes for a very satisfying viewing experience for all ages.

 

To watch or not to watch…

Definitely Watch If…

Avoid This If…

  • You’re a fan of the musical.
  • You’re not a fan of elaborate musicals, period.
  • You appreciate satire.
  • You can’t stand cliches nor the mocking of them.
  • You can stand movies where actors are singing non stop.
  • You can’t stand movies where actors are singing almost every line.

 

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