A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to catch a sneak preview of the new Disney Film “Into the Woods.” I have been so excited about this movie for over a year- since they announced they were going to make it.
You see in the summer of 2013 I had the honor of playing Jack’s Mom in the stage version of the production (that’s me with The Baker and The Baker’s Wife) and fell in love with the show. The rich characters, beautiful music and underlying valuable life lessons spoke to me and so many audience members. There is always the chance that Hollywood will completely RUIN a show (did anyone watch Peter Pan on NBC?) but from what I heard of the soundtrack and saw in the still photographs it appeared Disney might do the show justice.
I am going to TRY to review this movie from the point of view of a person watching a movie, not someone mad they cut one of her favorite songs from the stage production but I’m sure it’s going to come up.
The first character you meet is Cinderella (Anna Kendrick pictured above) and they share the story you are familiar with- the stepsisters, the death of the father, the cleaning of the house etc. They also introduce you to a ton of characters whose stories you already know- Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk (played by the break-out star of the movie Daniel Huttlestone), The Baker and his Wife, Rapunzel, The Witch, some Charming Princes and A Big Bad Wolf. The music is beautifully done, gorgeous costumes and (most of) the performances are top notch.
In my opinion the weakest part of the movie, surprisingly, is Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf. Disney made some changes to the script and one of them was to… well let’s say neuter… his character. To keep the movie PG they pulled back on the creepiness. So it made it kind of fall flat. He’s not the strongest singer to begin with and putting him up against some of these powerhouses made it clear he was out of his element. The character is not dominant throughout the movie so the awkwardness wasn’t on screen too much but his performance was almost painful to watch- especially since he is someone I generally enjoy watching.
The main characters are The Baker and The Baker’s Wife (yep no proper names). They have been unable to have a child and finally find out why when The Witch (pictured above played by the wickedly talented Meryl Streep- do NOT miss her fingernails) from next door pays them a visit. She had placed a curse on their home because The Baker’s Father stole beans from her garden. So she offers them some hope:
“You wish to have The curse reversed? I’ll need a certain Potion first. Go to the wood and bring me back: One: the cow as white as milk, Two: the cape as red as blood, Three: the hair as yellow as corn, Four: the slipper as pure as gold.”
So they head into the woods (with a deadline) to find these items which cause them to run into famous fairy tale characters and steal/barter for/buy their prized objects. It all seems to turn out right: Cinderella gets her prince, Rapunzel gets out of her tower, Little Red gets to Grandmothers house, Jack gets his beanstalk etc. But once everyone gets what they wished for, you get to see the rest of the story.
You see it turns out marrying a man who you danced with once at a ball might not make for the best marriage (didn’t you see “Frozen?”). That climbing a bean stalk and stealing a golden harp could make a giant angry. The theme of “Into The Woods” is “Be Careful What You Wish For” and that is the ultimate lesson. Because once you get what you want, it might not be what you need. And there WILL be consequences, for yourself and others.
While the purist in me is sad about some of the changes made I want to encourage everyone to see this movie. It’s beautiful. And I believe anything that might prompt someone to go see a live show should be given every chance to succeed. This is a great representation of what a movie studio can do if they take good material and treat it with respect and dignity.
It is rated PG but the story line is kind of mature. One of my dear friends took her 6 year old and he was getting a bit squirmy by the end. I wouldn’t take anyone younger than that. But for anyone who loves singing and fairy tales this is a MUST SEE movie. Please go see it and tell me what you think!