Into the Woods Review

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By Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)



When talking about “theater,” some of the first words you may hear from people are “Shakespeare” and “musicals.” And rightfully so, as Shakespeare’s stories are widely known, and if you go to Broadway or any large performing arts venue, the type of theater primarily shown is musicals. However, when we think of film and the movie theaters, musical isn’t a word that comes across the lips of moviegoers very often. That may have changed slightly with the 2012 hit Les Miserables, which earned its fair share of Oscar nominations and three Oscar wins. Now, exactly two years later, another widely popular musical makes its big screen debut. Director Rob Marshall brings Stephen Sondheim’s fairy tale universe together with the big screen adaptation of Into the Woods.



The Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) have been unable to conceive a child. When the witch (Meryl Streep) who lives next door pays them a visit, she explains it is because the Baker’s father stole magic beans from her, causing her to age. The witch makes them a deal: bring her four items – a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a golden slipper – by the end of the third midnight. The couple will get their child and the witch will regain her youth. Well, it just so happens that Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) needs to sell his cow and may be willing to exchange it for magic beans. Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) happens to have a red cape, Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) has hair as yellow as corn, and Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) just happens to have a golden slipper. But will the Baker and his wife be able to obtain the items they need in the time allotted or will they forever remain barren of a child?



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Rob Marshall is no stranger to big screen musicals, as his Chicago actually won Oscars. Into the Woods is a different film altogether, though, so it’s partially a wonder how he fell flat with this rendition. Part of it could be that the movie had to be dumb downed here and there, with the sexual overtones between certain characters removed. Also far removed from their importance is the narrator, who has a much larger role in the theatrical version. But, with mainstream audiences and the desire to bring in money (this is show BUSINESS after all), concessions had to be made in order to strategically bring in more capital. Into the Woods is a musical through and through, and it’s a shame that most of the musical pieces fall flat. Only the duet by Rapunzel’s prince (Billy Magnussen) and Cinderella’s prince (Chris Pine) called “Agony” has the energy that should be abundant in the music. And not to say that the other musical pieces are bad, they are just put together in a way that doesn’t leave you excited or moved a la Les Miserables.



In terms of the performances, they are generally one-note across the board, without anyone specifically standing out. Chris Pine may have the most memorable part, showing just the right amount of charm, grandiosity, and air-headedness that fits the role perfectly. Meryl Streep is amazing once again, displaying not only her acting chops that she’s well known for, but also her singing ability. Plus she’s been nominated for a Golden Globe, so good for her. Anna Kendrick has a wonderful singing voice, but her character doesn’t contain enough material for her to really flesh out the part. Daniel Huttlestone does stand out as Jack, however, making the most of his time on screen with a solid performance. Oh, did I mention Johnny Depp was in the film? Yup! He plays the Big Bad Wolf and has a running screen time of around 4-5 minutes, give or take. And it isn’t memorable. The film really focuses on James Corden and Emily Blunt driving the narrative forward, and they do what is necessary to keep the film afloat, albeit looking like one of the more awkwardly casted couples in some time.



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Into the Woods is more than suitable for family audiences, but it’s hard to imagine younger children sitting through this film. There isn’t anything cute for them to latch on to, with much of the story taking place in a dark forest. Thus, where Disney chose to take out some more adult content to make it more family friendly, it’s hard to imagine entire families going to see this film when all is said and done. While there isn’t anything terribly wrong with the film, there’s also nothing terribly right with it. It is a nice attempt at an interesting musical, one that won’t leave you in “Agony” when you’re finished but one that “I Wish” had been better than what was delivered.


Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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