Into the Woods

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

“Into The Woods”  (2014)

The Witch (Meryl Streep) visits the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt). She tells them that they are victims of a curse that made them childless. If they ever want to have a family and break the spell, they must go into the woods and find four objects. They go on an adventure that will change not only their lives, but also the people who live in their village.

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Set in the world of the Grimm fairy tales, this adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim Tony award-winning musical doesn’t hit on all cylinders, though it has some wonderful performances. The film blends together the stories of “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Cinderella,” and “Rapunzel.” The center of the film focus is on the childless couple’s quest and their interaction among the characters from the other stories. This isn’t your normal happy Disney fairy tale film. It’s full of dark moments, intrigue, double-crosses, infidelity and even shocking deaths. I think fans of the Broadway musical will be slightly disappointed in this performance. There isn’t the flow of energy that you get from the live show, and the film seems to stop and start too many times.

Into The Woods

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney

I enjoyed the first half of this film, as it introduces characters at a fast and amusing pace. We meet Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), who loves his cow and clearly is a little OCD, and his mother (Tracey Ullman), who is constantly disappointed in her son’s choices. Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) is a attempting to make it to the ball, and her step-mother (Christine Baranski) is determined to keep her doing household chores. And Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), while stuck in her castle is often visited by her Prince (Billy Magnussen). Even Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), who has a serious sweet tooth, is about to encounter the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp) on her way to Grandmas.

Into The Woods

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney

Corden as the Baker and Blunt as his wife are outstanding as the husband and wife team trying desperately to fulfill their end of the bargain with the Witch. Corden has a wonderful singing voice, perfectly suited with both the comedic and dramatic aspects of the role. He has incredible chemistry with Blunt and their scenes together are some of the best of the film. Blunt has a beautiful way with a song, and she just lights up the screen with her energy and screen presence. She sings an incredibly moving song near that end of the film that was one of the highlights of the whole “Into the Woods” experience.

Other standouts in the film are Chris Pine as the self-centered Prince, who tries to find Cinderella and Anna Kendrick, who shines as the girl he is destined for. Meryl Streep is brilliant as the Witch, who needs the Baker and his wife to find the objects. Streep is a whirlwind on screen and her songs “Stay With Me” and “Last Midnight” are some of the best of the film.

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Into The Woods

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney

The low point of the film is the appearance of Johnny Depp as The Big Bad Wolf. His song to Red Riding Hood is incredibly creepy and bordering on outright wrong. Depp, once one of the preeminent actors of his generation, has become a caricature of himself, and he can’t help himself from hamming it up for the camera.

I wanted to love this film but, unfortunately, I only like it. The last third of the film feels as if Sondheim and director Rob Marshall wanted to shock the audience with the dark tone of final scenes. The film at no time fulfills its promise, and it never quite meets its full potential. A big word of warning, I wouldn’t take kids to see this film, they won’t enjoy it and might be disappointed by its not so rosy, fairy-tale ending.    My Rating:  Bargain Matinee

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

“Into The Woods” is playing at a theatre near you.

“Into The Woods” Website


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