Movie Review – Into the Woods (2015)

Director: Rob Marshall

Stars: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Daniel Huttlestone, Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Tracey Ullman, Lilla Crawford, Mackenzie Mauzy, Billy Magnussen, and a really creepy Johnny Depp

Based on the stage musical, Into The Woods combines four well-known fairytales and puts a twist on them. A baker (Corden) and his wife (Blunt) are sad that they can’t have a child, when the witch next door (Streep) reveals that she cursed their house, but will lift it if they gather four things and make a potion for her. They venture into the woods, as do Little Red Riding Hood (Crawford), Jack (Huttlestone), and Cinderella (Kendrick), while Rapunzel (Mauzy) is locked up in a tower in the woods.

I like it when fairytales get a twist but I think Into the Woods doesn’t go as far with them as more modern things have done, like Once Upon a Time or Fables has done, and as such the results of this movie can seem somewhat tame. I liked the framing story of the baker and his wife, but a few of the other stories, well, some were given much more focus than others. Rapunzel, for examples, was only in the film for a few scenes and didn’t really have much impact on the film. The songs were mostly good, a few were bombastic and almost all of them had a jaunty tune. My favourite was ‘Agony’, which was totally over the top and hilarious, but I also enjoyed Streep’s two numbers where she let loose, and the song where the characters tried to decide who was to blame.

I enjoyed how the story went to the moment where they lived happily ever after…and then went beyond that and showed perhaps a more reasonable conclusion. However, a few things were unclear, like the fate of the witch. I’m still not sure I understand what happened there. I also think the film glosses over the fact that the giant really was a victim, and this is one of the examples where the story could really have inverted the traditional stories and cast some of the beloved characters in a less innocent light.

Johnny Depp’s brief appearance as the Big Bad Wolf is simply bizarre and creepy. I get that the wolf needs to be threatening but he takes it way too far and it comes across as very uncomfortable viewing, especially when he opens his jacket and reveals lots of candy to tempt the girl to go with him. Thankfully he’s only in the film for a manner of minutes but, eesh, I can’t see how they didn’t think this was creepy when filming it. Did no-one say, hang on a minute, this is a bit weird?

I generally liked the Cinderella story, and enjoyed Kendrick and Pine when they were on screen, but this film made me realize how utterly stupid the story is. In this version she goes to the ball for THREE nights in a row and dances with the prince every night, and she doesn’t even look that different when she’s been all glamoured up by magic. So then she runs away and the prince only has the shoe for the clue, and of course the stepsisters try it on and try to make it fit. Come on, you’ve danced with this woman for the past three nights, you can clearly see that these women aren’t the same. It’s not like it was even a masquerade ball! Then, when Cinderella finally appears the Prince says, “Yes it must be you, I’d know those eyes anywhere,” SO THEN WHY THE HELL DO YOU NEED THE SHOE?!!!!!

Overall though I liked the general theme that you’re never alone, and when this theme came through the movie was heartfelt. Despite the problems I have with it I did enjoy and I got carried away with the music. While it’s certainly not a perfect film I think a lot of people will enjoy it, but if you go into the woods and encounter Johnny Depp just stay far, far away.

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