You’ll Leave Singing Its Praises — Film Review of Into the Woods

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Photo via IMDb

Into the theaters I go to see the adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s award winning musical Into the Woods. The musical is a twist on the characters from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. The film follows the Baker (James Corden) and the Baker’s Wife (Emily Blunt) as they attempt to reverse the curse that makes the Baker barren. As the Baker and his wife venture into the woods, they encounter many other fairy tale characters, including Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) from Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford).

The musical in its original form is fairly long. So, to no surprise, the director, Rob Marshall, chose to cut out some of the songs. However, cutting out songs and certain parts of the original plot sterilizes the storyline. It made the characters of the film seem more pure and one-dimensional than the characters of the musical. Marshall was wielding a double-edged sword. Keeping the play in its entirety would be far too long a movie, but cutting it down detracted from the plot and gave the film more of a kid’s movie feel; that being said, there were plenty of aspects that still made the film geared toward adult audiences.

Specifically, Marshall stayed true to the pedophilic undertones of the Wolf’s (Johnny Depp) song, “Hello, Little Girl”; but, Depp’s performance is mediocre. Although an incredible actor, Depp’s singing hardly compared to that of his co-stars. The whole scene feels out of place, from Depp’s singing to his costume. His shabby outfit looks as though it is made up of leftover pieces of other costumes, which contrasts the rest of the film’s incredible production.

Overall, though, the film is extremely well cast. Unsurprisingly, Meryl Streep is an excellent Witch, proving once again that she is the right choice for any role. Emily Blunt is a surprisingly excellent Baker’s Wife — who would have guessed she could sing so well. Another praise-worthy performance is Chris Pine as Cinderella’s prince. He did a hysterical rendition of the song “Agony,” which is tastefully over the top — not to mention he deftly handles some of Sondheim’s sharpest lines, like “Life is often so unpleasant/you must know that, as a peasant” in the song “Any Moment.”

There is something magical about live theater. Although there is plenty of magic in Into the Woods, both literally and figuratively, there is something lost in the transition from stage to screen. There is almost something less enchanting about watching the musical as a film because there is far less room for error. One of the greatest parts of theatrical convention is forgiving the actors for their human-ness. Sondheim’s music is hellish to sing, even for the most talented of singers, and in any production of Into the Woods, professional or not, so many things can go wrong. The film is not quite as good as the musical merely because of the medium through which it is told. Nonetheless, the score is well-sung, which redeems the film. Into the Woods is still a must-see for any musical lover.


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