Coming from the theater, director Rob Marshall has always had a passion for the musical. Starting as a choreographer and ascending to the directors chair, the adaptation of beloved Broadway shows has always attracted Marshall to film projects as he has previously brought Chicago and Nine to the big screen. Naturally there was little surprise when he was announced as the director of Disney’s Into The Woods film adaptation, based on James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award–winning Broadway musical of the same name. Question is, can he bring the same magic that made the Broadway show so timeless?
Once upon a time, there lived four people, who wished. Yes yes this is how many of the stories go, but this particular story take the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales and sets them in an alternate world from the stories we can recite by heart. Here we find some of the most recognizable characters from “Cinderella“, “Little Red Riding Hood“, “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Rapunzel” as well as a few other characters you might remember from story time. The film intertwines the plots of these stories and explores the consequences of each characters’ wishes if they all existed in the same world.
Our story begins in a small village where a young Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are trying to start a family. When the couple learn of a curse upon their house from the witch (Meryl Streep) to keep the couple childless, they make a bargain with the witch to lift the curse. They must embark into the woods to find a series of objects the witch requires in order to break the spell; the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold, all before the chime of midnight in three days’ time. So into the woods the couple goes to find the necessary items.
Along the path we find Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) who is on her way to grandma’s house when she encounters the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp). We meet a young house maid named Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) who is desperate to go to the kings ball. A young boy names Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) who is determined to make his cow produce milk and save her from being sold, and a beautiful young maiden Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), locked in a tower awaiting her chance to be free. The Baker and his wife find themselves interacting with each story along their journey, as each story carries a piece of their elaborate puzzle. What begins as a lively musical quickly becomes a tale of caution, as the results of each characters wishes begin to surface, but is it too late to reverse the effects and save the kingdom?
Rob Marshall does any admirable job of pulling turning Sondheim’s classic into a feature film, but somewhere along the line lost sight of making a film that’s enjoyable to watch. The story takes many liberties with the original play in order to make it more “Disney friendly”, and some of those changes are welcome, but the movie does not omit the same entertaining factors that the original version had. As expected, Meryl Streep is fantastic as the witch and brings a hint of humor and class to the role. Johnny Depp’s Wolf is uneasily eerie and predatory, the actor was truly embraced the role in a way only his eccentric self could. Anna Kendrick was adorable, as always, and she pulled off Cinderella’s charm and innocence to perfection. Another notable standout with Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince. The actor played the role with a suave confidence stating “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” The remaining members of the cast were enjoyable, but not memorable.
Overall, Into The Woods is a good film, not great and will have a hard time finding its outside of the theater community. Caution to parents as this movie may confuse some younger children and their beliefs of their beloved characters. This movie should be seen with a gain of salt, so I recommend leaving the younger children at home. Get ready for 2 hours of song because this movie has a lot.
3 out of 5