This is a movie that I missed while it was playing in the theater. I heard mixed reviews and thought perhaps I wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway. However, realizing it had released on DVD, I decided to give it a watch, and form my own opinion, which is what I always do anyway!
Into the Woods has a large cast which includes Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Mackenzie Mauzy, Billy Magnussen, Lilla Crawford, Johnny Depp, Tracy Ullman, Daniel Huttlestone, Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard and Lucy Punch. This fantasy/musical was directed by Rob Marshall and is based on the musical by the same name, written by James Lapine, who also wrote the screenplay. The film has a PG rating for action, peril, and some suggestive material, and runs for 2 hours and 5 minutes.
This modern twist on classic fairy tales intertwines the stories of characters we thought we knew, such as Cinderella (Kendrick) and her charming Prince (Pine), Rapunzel (Mauzy) and her Prince (Magnussen)…did you know the two were brothers?…Little Red Riding Hood (Crawford) and the hungry, somewhat lecherous Wolf (Depp), Jack (Huttlestone) and his poor mother (Ullman), and the Witch (Streep) who being cursed herself, has in turn cursed the Baker (Corden) and his wife (Blunt), so that they could not have a child.
The twists and turns of every connecting story takes place in the Woods, where paths known and unknown beckon, confuse and reveal. The Witch sends the Baker and his wife off on a mission to find four items: a red cape, hair yellow as corn, a milk-white cow, and a golden shoe. She gives them three days to accomplish this task. If they succeed, the Witch’s curse will be broken, and she will remove the curse upon the Baker’s family, so that they may have a child. The Baker’s father long ago stole magic beans from the Witch’s garden, bringing ruin and mayhem on them all. Their obedience to the Witch and her demands will undo the harm he unleashed.
As each character declares his or her wish, they head into the Woods, symbolic for the journey all must make. Cinderella, teased and ridiculed by her Step-Mother (Baranski) and Step-Sisters (Blanchard, Punch) longs for a rich home and a Prince to love her, Little Red Riding Hood wishes for safety and the assurance of home and food, Jack to be reunited with his only friend, a white cow that he trades to the Baker for, you guessed it, five magic beans. The Baker and his wife just want a child and the Witch to be her beautiful self again. Rapunzel, who turns out to be the Baker’s sister, stolen away by the Witch as an infant and raised alone in the Woods, longs to see the world and her Prince, the younger son and not the heir to the Kingdom, just wants to be with her.
At the heart of the overlapping and inter-connecting stories is the question: Do you really want what you wish for? Or does the tale you are telling become the curse? Good question! When a giant invades the Kingdom, and the villages and lives of the citizens are threatened, clarity comes to each person as wishes are granted….and the deeper longings, beneath the wishes, are revealed.
This is a musical. I typically love musicals and some of my favorite movies are in this genre. However, I was at first put off by the singing in this film. I initially found myself wishing they would talk more…and sing less…although the actors and actresses all had fine voices. Gradually, I settled into the film and the singing grew on me. The deeper truths became evident but not in stark black and white nor did I feel forced to accept them. Each character, who received the wishes they asked for at the beginning of the movie, had the opportunity to decide if that is what they really wanted. For most of them, the answer was somewhere in between what they had already….and what they thought they wanted, as Cinderella so beautifully expressed. It turned out her Prince charming was certainly that…and not much more.
Overall, this was an enjoyable film that was humorous at times, in a deliberately over the top kind of way. When the two Princes were singing about their agony over finding their desired, and elusive, Princesses, as they frolicked about in a tumbling brook, tearing open their shirts to expose manly, muscular chests, I laughed….and rolled my eyes. Depp was a wicked and somewhat creepy Wolf while Meryl Streep, well she shines, as she always does. I moved from uncertainty about the musical format, to smiling and humming along. The film gets a thumbs up from me. Into the Woods…be careful what you wish for!