Jan 06 2015

Into the Woods – Movie Review. A Musical Fan’s Delight


Production Company: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Starring: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, and Johnny Depp

Director: Rob Marshall

Genre: Musical Fantasy

Running Time: 125 Minutes

MPAA Rating: PG


Into the Woods Main PosterHey look, another live action portrayal of a fairy tale! You thought it was bad with the film industry making any comic book they can get their hands on and now, fairy tales have been bombarding our screens, both large and small, time and time again. On TV, you have Grimm, Sleepy Hollow, and Once Upon a Time, to name of few. For film, we’ve seen multiple versions of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, with every other spin off you can think of, and still more to come. Into the Woods is like The Avengers of fairy tales with intertwining stories meshed into one film. And this time, it has music!

Into the Woods is based on the musical play by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, and is a crossover of multiple Grimm Brothers tales. The movie centers around Baker (James Corden) and Baker’s wife (Emily Blunt) who wish to have children but are unable to because of a curse by The Witch (Meryl Streep). The Witch tells the couple if they wish to lift the curse, they have to bring her four items owned by Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) from Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy). So Baker and his wife go on an adventure to find these items, while interfering with these classic stories.

With this rendition of some of our favorite childhood characters, the filmmakers have created a decent film – for the most part. There were times I sincerely thought the film was going to be a huge flop — until later on in the movie. Many of the costumes, acting, and direction are over the top, or just outright ridiculous. Let’s use The Wolf (Johnny Depp) for example, who, by the way, is unfortunately only on screen for about five minutes. Depp’s costume is a zoot suit, with a hat that has sewn on ears; there is only basic make-up work on his hands, and his whiskers are just a stylish mustache. I couldn’t believe a movie that was budgeted at about $50 million couldn’t come up with better makeup and costumes than a high school play. Also, the acting for some of the other cast is completely exaggerated. It was about 30 minutes into the film when I realized the movie wasn’t taking itself seriously. Once I figured that out, I realized what kind of movie I was watching and was able to enjoy the film a lot more. But I wish the creators had revealed their intentional absurdity to the audience a little earlier. Into the Woods

The scene that made me realize the purposefully ridiculous nature of the film is when Cinderella’s prince (Chris Pine) and Rapunzel’s prince (Billy Magnussen) are singing a song, and acting oh-so-slick while doing it, which totally cracked me up. Pine does a great job of playing an overly suave prince. He and the rest of the cast (except the kids in the film who are a little annoying) do a great job. Tracey Ullman, who plays Jack’s mom, is a nice little touch to the film as far as representing the talented actresses of old, but the person who steals the show is another veteran actress, Meryl Streep. Every time The Witch is on screen, Streep shows her talents and once again, proves she is one of the best actresses of all time. She delivers her witty lines with exceptional grace, even creepy at times, but very likeable despite the evil nature of her character. And like everyone else in this film, she sings well. As a matter of fact, her singing, as well as Pine’s, is what surprised me the most.

If you’re a huge fan of musicals, you’re going to love Into the Woods. But if you’re like me who isn’t, you might have a hard time with this one. Even so, you will at least be entertained. Much like the musical film version of Les Miserables, the actors in Into the Woods pretty much don’t stop singing to catch their breath. The first 20 minutes of the film feel like one long song with weak transitions that could’ve been broken up much better. But unlike Les Miserables, the songs aren’t so bleak. They are catchy and will be driven into your head like a pop song you can’t forget. Unfortunately, they are nothing to swoon over. For the most part, the songs are pretty generic.

Into the Woods CinderellaWhatever you do, don’t think you know what Into the Woods is about. Yeah, we’ve heard these fairy tales before, but there’s a curve ball or two in the film that will bring you back down to earth, reminding you not all things end “…happily ever after.” I was impressed with that considering some of the flaws the movie has. Into the Woods is not meant for everybody but for those fans who enjoy musicals, they’ll love it, and won’t be able to wait to buy the soundtrack afterwards.




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All photos © 2014 Walt Disney Co. All Rights Reserved.

© 2015, Nick Polizzi. All rights reserved.

Nick Polizzi

You might say I'm a firm believer in the Narrative Paradigm. I'm a storyteller. If I'm not watching a film, I'm reading a book or writing. Laughing is the most important thing in the world, so I do my best to infect everyone with humor. I also enjoy the stuff the cool kids like, but my true identity is a sarcastic, ordinary nerd who strives to be extraordinary.

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