Into The Woods Rated PG. In theaters on December 25, 2015!
Fairy tale worlds collide with a notorious ensemble of our beloved fairytale characters- Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Baker and his Wife, Jack and the Beanstalk, A Witch, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf. A wish and a curse brings them together in Disney’s INTO THE WOODS. That wish unravels the kingdom (who knew that they are lived in the same kingdom!) with characters who lend us their humor, terrific acting (the casting was perfect) and powerful voices that makes this movie worth seeing.
This fantastical journey through the woods is based on the Grimm’s Brothers stories and is an adaption of Stephen Sondheim’s musical of the same name. You will start to notice early on that the stories are not the “Happily Ever After” tales we might be accustomed to. I’m not sure if the big Hollywood names sold me with portraying their unstable selves or maybe I felt they managed to portray the emotional parent/child relationships with cinematography and stunning costumery but I saw the musical a few weeks ago and had mixed feelings about it. I was concerned that the movie would have lulls with slow songs but I happily found the opposite. Director Rob Marshall created a solid, twisted film with dead-on casting. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire 124 minute film.
Director Rob Marshall describes Into The Woods, as “a modern fairytale for this generation”. Is this generation over the goody too-shoes happy endings? Do they want more of a gritty/naughty story with real consequences? Get ready to ask yourself- what lengths would you go through to keep a friendship? Would you climb a beanstalk? Steal from a giant? What about having a child? Would you tell lies? Steal? Or what would you do to keep a child? Lock her in a tower?
Each character lends their personality but there is a common thread of enduring pain of wanting someone or something you can’t have. A mash-up of a handful of fairytales lends to an intricate web of lies, deceit and despair. The character’s desires made me stop stop and think, what kind of person do I want to be?
I can’t write about this movie without touching on the characters and what they bring to the story.
Desperation: Will you stop at nothing to have a child? I’ve been there. You are consumed by wanting a child. It’s all you can think about. But, it becomes unhealthy when you have to hurt others to get what you want. The Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) seem perfect for each other but why did the wife stray? Did the wife settle for the baker? Carden and Blunt’s chemistry on screen and off screen (stay tuned for my interview with the two) is undeniable. Unfortunately, their wish has life-changing consequences. Be careful what you wish for.
Innocence: Lilla Crawford impressively plays Little Red Riding Hood. She’s on her way to grandmother’s house but eats all of the treats and feels that she has let her grandmother and mother down. She doesn’t listen to her mother’s warnings while straying in the woods and trusts a stranger. We are reminded of her immaturity when she throws a tantrum. This felt very familiar and brought me back to when my daughter was a toddler.
Indecisive: Anna Kendrick plays a different modern day Cinderella. One who thinks (or over-thinks) her options. Did she leave that shoe on the steps of the palace on purpose? Was she leaving the ball in the prince’s court intentionally? Every woman has the right to change her mind and Cinderella learns that it’s not all about charm and a good head of hair.
Overbearing Helicopter Mom: Meryl Streep was impeccable as “The Witch” who loves a little too hard. She feels that she’s protecting Rapunzel from the evil world but is wrapped up in her own misery and search for the fountain of youth. Streep shines in this film and makes the song “Children Will Listen” her own. She was spectacular and I’m sure her character can be seen as misunderstood. Aren’t all protagonists misunderstood? But don’t forget she stole someone else’s child!
Dysfunctional: Rapunzel has been locked up for 18 years and falls in love with the first guy she meets. She’s scared of the world. After all, being raised with a dishonest parent can have dire consequences filling Rapunzel with anxiety and rash decision making. One major difference from the musical and the movie is Rapunzel’s ending. She rides away with her prince in Rob Marshall’s version rather than being crushed to death. I appreciated that the film creators did show us that a real life happy ending is possible even after a tragic upbringing.
Vanity: I have to say, the egotistical princes were marvelous! The Prince and The Other Prince are dressed in contrasting black and white outfits. They squabble over who is worse off as they take vanity to a new level. They are pained by the fact that they can’t be with their fair lady and have a sing-off during the song “Agony” which is remarkable. Chris Pine’s hair stole the scene along with his six o’clock shadow and delightfully funny lyrics. We have to remember that our ego and pride can keep us from seeing the world. Did the prince feel true love for Cinderella or did he want something that he couldn’t have.
Gullible: Jack sells his Milky White cow for magical beans. His mom sees him as lazy and is caught up in her wrath when she throws away the beans. Was it his fault that all of this mayhem ensued or was he only trying to help his mom and protect his utterly-milkless cow? Was it the mom’s fault for not believing in her son?? Tracy Ullman plays Jack’s mother. She’s a bit rough around the edges and seems to accept her son’s thefts but the end of the day is looking out for her only son.
Envy: The Stepmother and ugly stepsisters are a riot. Christine Baranski gives a stellar performances as she cuts off parts of her daughter’s feet to deceive the Prince! I wish these ladies had their own show. Lucy Punch plays stepsister Lucinda and that snarl is award-winning!
Perversion: Johnny Depp dutifully plays the creepy predator who has a taste for young girls during Little Riding Hood’s encounter with the Big Bad Wolf. I was uncomfortable watching this scene and wanted to yell STRANGER DANGER! Depp is a true character actor and he’s a good choice for the role of the wolf. He distracts Red with candy hidden in his zoot suit and talks her into picking flowers for granny while he comprises an evil plan of his own.
Well played out dichotomy throughout the film: True Love found vs True love lost (affair); Lives started/conception vs lives taken. Happiness vs Sorrow; Friendships lost and then new relationships found. Along with this, the musical accompaniment was upbeat as well as subdued for emotional effect. The vocal performances were strong, moving and harmonious especially during, “You Are Not Alone” sung by James Cordon (Baker) and Emily Blunt (Baker’s wife).
Into The Woods is Rated PG. I do feel it is a family-friendly film, but “family” doesn’t necessary mean the preschool crowd. This film is dark and does touch on mature topics- adultery, stealing, death- but I feel that there are messages in the film that are absolutely worth talking about with your kids such as stranger danger, consequences to our actions and helping the people in your community. My personal opinion is that the film would be good for kids 8+ but obviously parents should use their own discretion since they know what their children can handle. I absolutely recommend this film to people who are new to movie musicals. Into The Woods is a beautiful blend of talent, exquisite story telling and music.