Into the Woods

by Alan Rapp on December 24, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Into the Woods
  • IMDb: link

Into the WoodsBased on the stage musical of the same name by Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods offers a fairy tale adventure featuring a host of well-known characters whose stories all begin to intertwine over three days in the mysterious woods filling the space between their various homes. The story begins when the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) learn their inability to have children was caused by a curse put on his family by an evil Witch (Meryl Streep). The Witch, however, offers the couple a way to break the curse if they can gather an odd assortment of items before the blue moon in three days time. And that, as you might expect, is where the other characters come in.

To gather 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 Baker and his wife will come into contact with Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and his mother (Tracey Ullman), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), and a pair of princes seeking true love (Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen).

“Into the Woods” is lightweight holiday fluff. The musical numbers and performances all well-executed, if not all that memorable (with the exception of Pine and Magnussen’s ridiculously over-the-top duet which steals the entire show). The only casting choice which didn’t set well for me was Johnny Depp as the Wolf which was a little too creepy overly-sexualized predator of a pre-teen girl for my tastes.

I only remember seeing Emily Blunt sing once before in film during a memorable sequence of Charlie Wilson’s War, but she proves more than up to the challenge here of matching her Tony Award winning co-star note for note. Streep is fun as the film’s villain while Cinderella’s stepmother (Christine Baranski) and stepsisters (Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch) are exactly the irredeemable human beings you’d expect. I would have liked more of Mauzy’s Rapunzel who (like several characters) disappears for much of the second act and takes her ridiculous prince with her.

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My biggest complaint isn’t really directed to the movie but the source material as the second act turns events on their side offering a more bleak look at several characters who only just got their happily-ever-afters minutes before. The film version condenses these events, which center around the ramifications of several characters’ actions over the previous three days and nights, into a final act that lacks the magic and buffoonery that balanced out the darker parts of the first two-thirds of the film.

Those looking for a fun holiday film with music and magic will get what they expect with Into the Woods, although not much more. Kendrick, Comden, and Streep are as advertised, and Blunt’s musical talent is a nice surprise, but it’s a pretty basic by-the-book musical lacking a true signature song or much in the way of surprising moments. A quick jaunt through the woods may be fun but I wouldn’t want to live there.

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