Wednesday, December 10, 2014

“Into The Woods”– Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we saw the musical “Into The Woods”, starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick.


When a childless couple meets a witch who offers to help them conceive, will they be able to meet her conditions first?


In an enchanted land lives a baker and his wife (James Corden and Blunt) who lament that they have not as yet been blessed with any children.  They are then approached by their neighbor, a witch (Streep), who claims she can assist them by removing the curse that prevents this young couple from having a child.  But she is not being magnanimous – her efforts come at a considerable cost:  before The Witch will even entertain the notion of helping the pair, they must first meet her terms – the two must produce several ingredients that will allow The Witch to cast a spell that will result in removing the curse of ugliness that befell her many years prior. 

Desperate, The Baker and his wife agree to the deal and set out into the woods to try to locate the required items.  In the course of their scavenger hunt, they encounter characters familiar in many legendary fairy tales who – intentionally or not – somehow manage to aid the couple in their quest for The Witch’s requested components.  From Little Red Riding Hood, they get the red cape; Jack (of Beanstalk fame) sells them his white cow in exchange for some magic beans; the blonde hair they seek comes from Rapunzel; and it is Cinderella, of course, who provides the slipper. 

Once all items are gathered, The Witch is finally able to produce a potion that returns her beauty; she immediately reciprocates by causing The Baker’s Wife to become pregnant.  Indirectly, this causes the lives of the others to be impacted as well:  Jack gets enough money to bring himself and his mother out of poverty; Rapunzel meets the man who rescues her from imprisonment in the tower; Red Riding Hood, saved from the wolf, is allowed to live with her grandmother; and most importantly, Cinderella weds her Prince Charming.  But when the wife of the giant Jack slayed invades the kingdom seeking revenge, will everyone’s happy ending ultimately be ruined?


“Into The Woods” is based on the hit Broadway musical of the same name; the play’s book was written by James Lapine, who adapted it into the screenplay for this film and the music for both the play and motion picture is by the legendary Stephen Sondheim.  For those familiar with the stage version, be advised that there are a number of songs that were excised for this version.  A Disney production filled with many stars, “Into The Woods” is a family-oriented movie that has all the earmarks of being a huge success when it opens Christmas Day. 

The music, however, may be one of its downfalls – unless you are, of course, a die hard Sondheim fan.  Generally speaking, the songs in musicals are supposed to provide sufficient momentum to drive the story forward; in the movie version, it actually had the opposite effect, at times making it feel as though the story was being stopped dead cold for no better reason than to feature another tune.  Admittedly, Sondheim is a brilliant lyricist, but the melodies for many of these songs could hardly be described as catchy; unless you’re intimately familiar with the soundtrack, you will likely not be humming any of these in the shower. 

In a recent movie review, it was noted that one of the flaws was a false ending – the situation where the film seems to end, but surprisingly continues for a while longer.  Sadly, “Into The Woods” suffers from the same unfortunate malady.  The wedding of Cinderella feels like the conclusion, but the audience is (unpleasantly) astounded to learn that the movie continues for at least another 20 minutes (possibly as long as a half hour).  Those who know the play well may recognize the fact that the scene that concludes the first act turns out to ostensibly be the end of the second act in the motion picture, which causes confusion by the audience and imbalance in the story.   

If you’re interested in comparing the stage version to the movie, please find below a link to purchase a DVD of the stage play (Amazon); the disc can also be rented on Netflix, but is currently unavailable for streaming. 

Into the Woods (2014) on IMDb

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