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REVIEW — “Into the Woods”

The best film version of a musical in a very long time!  Based on the musical that debuted on Broadway in 1987, “Into the Woods” is a magical musical that is so much more than the trailers hint at.  Fans of the Broadway show are sure to love this incarnation of the story, but those who are coming in fresh are in for a wonderful treat.


Even though Disney’s name is plastered all over this movie, and it has the earmarks of classic fairy tales, this is not exactly a family friendly film.  The entire story is layered with metaphors and sexuality.  Disney has toned it down some though; Johnny Depp’s pedodfile “Wolf” doesn’t have the genitalia that the character possessed in the stage version.  While most of the adult material is likely to go over most children’s heads, the second half is sure to leave them with questions.  


The first half of the film follows a rather typical fairy tale arc.  A wicked witch, individuals in desperation and longing (for money, love, a child, etc)  Their paths cross, and eventually everyone gets what they want.  Just at the moment when the stories usually end with “Happily Ever After,” disaster strikes and real life sets in.  Pain, sadness, infidelity, divorce, and death all rear their ugly heads, as often happens in real life.


Everything is wonderful in this film adaptation.  It’s perfectly cast, from the smallest roles to the largest.  And not only are the songs thoroughly enjoyable, the singing is stunning as well!  Before this film it was a little known fact that Meryl Streep had trained for the Opera earlier in life.  We’ve seen her sing before in “Mama Mia!” but her performance here is on a much higher level.  Director Rob Marshall also does a wonderful job at staging the musical numbers.  Instead of just having them wander to and fro while singing, he frequently gives them set elements to interact with.  The best example of this is the two princes duet “Agony” by  Chris Pine & Billy Magnussen.  (The theatre audience literally erupted in applause after this scene!)


If you even partially enjoy musicals or fairy tales, do yourself a favor and go see this film.  It is definitely one of the best films out this holiday season.

5 out of 5 Stars


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