Directed by Rob Marshall. Written by James Lapine (Screenplay/Musical). Starring Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), Daniel Huttlestone (Jack), James Cordon (Baker), Emily Blunt (Baker’s Wife), Lilla Crawford (Little Red Riding Hood), Meryl Streep (Witch).
Bottom line: Into the Woods is pretty ok, then again, I’m not the biggest fan of musicals but I will add that Meryl Streep is fantastic.
Into the Woods is a retelling of classic fairy tales: Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Bean Stalk, and Rapunzel. These stories are intertwined by way of a baker and wife who desperately want to reverse the witch’s curse that prevents them from having a family. The baker and his wife have to collect five items (one from each of the fairy tale characters): “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.” The movie ultimately asks what is the cost of their desire? Are they willing, for example, to swindle a poor boy by giving him beans for his cow? Is life “Good versus Evil” like the fairy tales of old?
Into the Woods is one of those movies where your enjoyment is bound to your attitude towards its style. The base value is “good.” If you love musicals add a point. If you merely like musicals add half a point. If you hate musicals subtract half a point.
The cinematography is reasonable. There’s a lot of smooth transitioning between shots making the images flow with the songs. The film’s world feels less like a world and more of a collection of positions in which one sings.
One of the benefits of seeing the film as opposed to the play is the casting. Meryl Streep – must I say more? She’s amazing. She’s always amazing. Emily Blunt plays a wonderful baker’s wife. She pairs off well with James Gordon who plays her husband. Anna Kendrick’s performance as Cinderella is good too.
Overall, it feels like your standard fair musical. If you saw the play and enjoyed it, you’ll most likely enjoy this rendition. Naturally, if you didn’t enjoy the play, I’d be surprised if you are even reading this far but, just in case, to you, I wouldn’t recommend it. My above number assignment of two out of four is colored (despite my best efforts) by my general dislike of musicals. I think one of the things that bothers me is that a lot of the songs are almost all good. That is, more than half of each individual song I like; one verse might flow in a way that I like but the following verse I don't and the verse that I don't like is the one that gets stuck in my head!
I haven’t seen all of the 1991 Broadway production of Into the Woods but from what I’ve seen it’s really close. That isn’t surprising once I looked at the credits. The writer of the musical also wrote the screenplay. The question I ask is, “does the play translate to the screen well?” Is it even fair to make the comparison between the play and the film? After all, a film is a film and a play is a play. Apples and Oranges and the like. Then again, it might be worthwhile to determine why I have a tendency to dislike musicals.
I believe it has something to do with my early experiences with musicals. The one that sticks out most in my mind is Oliver! (1968). It was a big budget production with singing and dancing. It was a turbulent experience because as soon as you hear the music, strap in – you’re going to be here for a while. Within the first seconds you can probably tell if you are going to like the song and, for your sake, you’d better because after the lengthy song comes a dancing sequence to that music.
It is exhausting.
I am, however, totally down to watch a play and I think it is because it’s a live performance. That is, the actors get tired. The song and dance can’t physically go on forever. In a film, the characters have unlimited endurance so they can sing and dance forever. This threat of song and dance gives me an ever-present sense of dread in movie-musicals.
What do you think? Do you like musicals? Did you see and enjoy Into the Woods? Leave a comment or send me a message; I’d love to talk about it more! Thanks for reading!