Into the Woods (2014)

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6.5 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 7/10

Good cast, good themes

Feels like a lot of the meat of the plot is toned down

 
Movie Info

Movie Name:  Into the Woods

Studio:  Walt Disney Pictures

Genre(s):  Musical

Release Date(s):  December 8, 2014 (Premiere)/December 25, 2014 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG

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So are we good guys or bad guys?

The tales of old are back again as Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) finds herself going into the woods and facing her enemy in the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp).  Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) is sent into the woods to sell his prized cow Milky White, and Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) finds herself in the woods in a hope to get to ball of the Prince (Chris Pine).  Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) also finds her prince (Billy Magnussen) but all of the characters find themselves caught in the web of a witch (Meryl Streep) who has her own plans and is using a barren breadmaker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) as tools in her game…when magic beans add a giant to the mix, the trip into the woods could prove to be a great adventure.

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I will get an Oscar nomination for any movie I am in…the spell is cast!

Directed by Rob Marshall, Into the Woods is based on the Stephen Sondheim 1987 classic musical.  The film was released to mostly positive reviews but also drew criticism for the adaptation.  It received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Streep), Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design but won none.

Sondheim is an odd musical writer.  His musicals are often more layered, darker, and tougher than other musicals not only in the actual music but in the themes presented.  Into the Woods is no exception.  The decision to make it a Disney production didn’t sit well with everyone, and it sometimes feels like it is missing a bit of the bite that the original probably had.

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Johnny Depp fortunately just showed up to work dressed like this…

The story has a lot of sexual themes ingrained in it and it feels like they did a lot to lighten it up.  The most interesting of these is the loss of innocent storyline (which is a theme for most of the characters), but in particular in Little Red Riding Hood’s case.  A similar idea was explored in The Company of Wolves based on Angela Carter’s works, but here I do like the exploration and the idea of wolf/girl relationship as a metaphor for coming of age…and it illustrates the problems with this musical.  It could have been real dark , tense, and sexually charged, but it needed to be more family friendly.  Weirdly enough casting such a young girl for Red Riding Hood with Depp who’s quite a bit older did add a weird lecherous nature to it.

The movie in general has an odd feeling and flow to it.  With shows like Once Upon a Time, books like Wicked, and comics like Fables, the idea of “real” fairytales has become a bit common place.  The idea exploring what came after the “happily ever after” was newer in 1987 and it is a bit worn here…by the time it finally reaches that second act of the musical, you’re a bit tired of it.

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Happily Ever After…or not

The acting is quite good.  While Streep is always strong, it felt like kind of a gimme to have her nominated for the over-the-top witch role.  I was more impressed by the other actors who might not be as comfortable in singing roles.   The music is tough and I felt most of the actors and actresses did a great job handling it.

The movie also looks good, but could look even better.  It has a bit of a claustrophobic look, and I wish the woods were more expansive.  It attempted to keep the stage play feel, but I felt it hurt it a little as a result (though the costumes were good).

Into the Woods probably won’t win over people who don’t like musicals.  It is a pretty standard musical, and it didn’t have to be.  That is the problem with the movie.  It could have been much better, and it should have been better.  It isn’t a bad movie, but it misses the mark by enough that it leaves you wondering what if it had really nailed it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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