Based on the Stephen Sondheim musical, Into the Woods leaps off the stage and onto our screens this January. With an all star line up this promises to be the first big hit for Disney in 2015. However, the musical is very dark with a lot of adult content. So considering the film has a PG rating, how does this adaptation compare to the original story and can they keep the magic alive?
In a magical land, far far away, there lived all of our favourite fairytale characters. There was Cinderella, Prince Charming, Jack and his beloved cow, Rapunzel, her Prince and her wicked witch of a “mother”, Little Red Riding Hood, her grandma and the wicked wolf, and the Baker and his Wife. Our story centres on the Baker and his Wife who desperately want a child. Their wish is heard but not by a fairy godmother. Their neighbour, The Witch, bursts through and announces that she put a curse on the Baker’s house. If they help her retrieve 4 items, they will get their wish. So the Baker journeys into the woods searching for a milky white cow, a golden shoe, a cape as red as blood and hair as yellow as corn. With some wonderful songs, we follow the journey into the woods and see if the Baker and his Wife finally get their wish.
Having the same writer on board as the musical (James Lapine) they definitely gave it the best shot they could and it does work.
Into the Woods has so much going on, it’s difficult to summarise and I can see how the team would have had a hard time editing it for the big screen. Having the same writer on board as the musical (James Lapine) they definitely gave it the best shot they could and it does work.
As I said already, this is an all star cast and as far as I could see there was no weak link amongst them. A lot of praise has been given to Meryl Streep who, as the Witch, does show why she is probably the best actress of our generation and Emily Blunt who is delightful as the Baker’s Wife surprising some people with her vocal ability. I feel that credit isn’t being given to those who have really shone in this film though, for example, James Corden as the Baker. Most people outside of the U.K. and Ireland have probably heard very little about him but in 2015, everyone is going to know his name with not only this film but also taking over from Craig Fergusson on the Late Late show (not to be mistaken with our Late Late show this ones in America). James is an extremely talented actor but also held his own vocally. As the main character in the film, you’d expect to be hearing more about him and considering the performance he gives, critics should be shouting his name from the rooftops.
Same too can be said for Lilla Crawford who as Little Red Riding Hood really holds her own in scenes with actors who have more experience than she does but also some who, for any other young actress, would be intimidating to perform with. Unfortunately, the bigger names are getting the majority of the magazine covers and interviews which I think is very unfair. Not that they were bad, it just seems unfair. The best example to this is that Johnny Depp is in the whole movie for approximately 9 minutes total, and is all over the publicity for the film.
However, one of the big names who really surprised me was Chris Pine. He’s always an enjoyable actor to watch but his portrayal of Prince Charming is nothing short of genius. He has great chemistry with all the actors and I genuinely had to google if it was really him singing (which apparently it is and he is AMAZING). After you see Prince Charming and his Brother (Rapunzel’s Prince played by Billy Magnussen) singing the song Agony, you will understand. It is hands down the best scene in the film.
…at times the music does seem a bit…samey.
Into the Woods is from the same creator as Sweeny Todd (Stephen Sondheim) and at times the music does seem a bit…samey. That’s not just because of Depp, but the style is definitely similar and there are moments of déjà vu with some of the songs. Not the films fault but something to be prepared for. There are also some points where you wonder how much the rewrite affected the original story. The first act is mostly singing (Les Mis style) and then in the second half there is as rather large gap between songs. I can’t be certain this is due to the adaptation or not, but it does seem a little disjointed. Also, there are a few loose ends that are left unanswered which is a little annoying but I understand they would have lengthened the film quite a bit so there was clearly just not time.
For musical lovers who haven’t seen the original on stage this is an enjoyable version and to be fair I haven’t heard many complaints from those who have seen both which is always a good sign. January is always a tight month money wise after the madness of Christmas and New Year’s eve but if you have the time (and budget allows) you should definitely check it out. And if it teaches you anything, it’s that you should be careful what you wish for.