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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Sean Kelly

My Thoughts on Into the Woods

IntotheWoodsRob Marshall (Chicago) directs this big screen adaptation of the Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.  A baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) live in a village and are desperate for a child.  The couple are confronted by a witch (Meryl Streep), who tells them that they can’t have kids because of a curse placed on The Baker’s parents.  To break the curse, The Witch sends the two into the local woods, where they have to collect magical items while encountering various fairy tale characters, including Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), her Prince (Chris Pine), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and The Wolf (Johnny Depp).  As the various characters set off to make their dreams come true, they quickly learn that you have to be careful what you wish for.

Into the Woods is an adaptation of the 1987 Broadway stage musical written by James Lapine, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  I know Sondheim best for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which was adapted into a film by Tim Burton back in 2007.  Ironically, both films feature Johnny Depp in a role, though his appearance in Into the Woods is much smaller than Sweeney Todd.

Into the Woods takes the characters from multiple fairy tales, including “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Rapunzel” and combines them all into one musical adventure in the woods.  The plot is tied together by the quest of The Baker and his wife to find a number of magical items needed to break the Witch’s curse.  These include Cinderella’s slipper, Little Red Riding Hood’s cape, Jack’s cow, and Rapunzel’s hair. 

The film also breaks down the original stories and takes the time to show what happens after things have gone happily ever after.  In fact, Into the Woods has two very clear halves to the story, which probably represents the two acts of the original play, which I have not seen.  By all reports, some of the darker elements of the stage production were toned down or removed to make the film more suitable for a film with the Disney label.  However, I have to say that there was still a slight edge to some elements of the story.

The songs of Into the Woods are a mix of typical show tunes, along with some more satirical numbers.  While it’s sometimes a risk having film actors singing, I thought that they all did a decent enough job in the film.  Probably the most surprising singer in the film was Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince, who gets some of the more humorous musical numbers in the film.  Most of the show stopping numbers in the film went to Meryl Streep’s Witch, who probably ends up being one of the best characters in the film.

Overall, I have to say that I found Into the Woods to be a pretty enjoyable musical fairy tale mash-up.

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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).