Starring: Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, James Corden, Daniel Huttlestone, Christine Baranski, Tracey Ullman, Lilla Crawford, Johnny Depp, Mackenzie Mauzy, Billy Magnussen
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Written By: James Lapine
Rating: PG (US) Running Time: 2 hr 4 min
I’ll have you know, before seeing the trailer for Into the Woods, I had never heard of this production, or knew what it was about. After the trailer, I was eagerly looking forward to this collision of Brothers Grimm fairy tales. That score. That cast. This film looked like it was going to be a fantastical heart warming musical. It was going to be awesome. But like the luscious red apple fed to Snow White, what initially seemed delicious and wholesome, turned out to be poisoned, and I left the theater somewhat bemused about what I had witnessed.
The problems I had with this film however, are limited to the story. Well, stories I guess is more accurate. The stories, and the characters. Yes, it was just the story and the characters I had a problem with. And some of the songs. But really, that’s all! A dizzying collage of Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella, combined to facilitate a story about a baker and his wife, and their quest to lift the curse that has left them unable to have children.
Which is all well and good, and while I gather this is a somewhat ‘Disneyfied’ version of this story, I still found it needlessly grim and dark. Nearly all the characters in this story are incredibly flawed, and actually quite unlikable. Jack is a thief and an idiot, Hood is a thief and an idiot, Prince Charming is only, charming, and the baker’s wife isn’t to be trusted! In fact, the only characters that don’t behave in some totally unjustified morally ambiguous way are the giants, and we hardly get to see them at all before they are unjustly eliminated by these horrible little people!
On the plus side however, this cast do an excellent job breathing life into these characters. Meryl Streep is entertaining as the Witch, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover Chris Pine could actually sing. Anna Kendrick is likable as Cinderella, and James Corden is great as the Baker. The film is well produced, the score excellent, and there some nice moments of humor. Especially when the princes sing about the agony of not being with the women they love.
In the end, the stagy feel of the production and dark subject matter, isn’t likely to entertain movie going audiences who are new to this material. And folks who are familiar with the stage play, are probably not going to appreciate the changes made to the original story. Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods, tries to be all things to all people, when I think a fresher more uplifting take on this story, that fully embraced the medium of film and the visual effects available today, would have been more successful.
If you are like me, and didn’t know anything about Into the Woods before this film. Don’t trust the trailer. This movie is darker than that trailer would have you believe. Fans of the stage version, get ready for some changes. It might be worth researching the film online before paying to see the movie. The movie is rated PG, which is surprising considering the dark tone of the film.
This is a well produced film, and it looks and sounds great. A matinée screening is recommended, and if you wait for the rental, a HD viewing on your TV is the best way to go.
I really enjoyed Chris Pine’s and Billy Magnussen’s performance of the song, Agony. Arguably the most entertaining song, and funniest moment in the entire film.