Remember when fairy tales used to teach life lessons and were not about selling ever increasing amounts of princess merchandise? With Into the Woods, Disney ironically returns to the original fairy tale premise, where happily ever after is not where the story necessarily ends. I admit, I had no idea about the history of this film prior to watching it. I mean, I didn’t even know it was based on a musical, even though its roots were obvious when watching this movie. I knew that it combined several characters from Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood. My favorite characters were the Baker and his wife though, which are original to this story.
This film was wonderfully acted. Meryl Streep as the Witch was outstanding as you might expect, believably playing both the good and bad natures of her character. I also enjoyed James Corden and Emily Blunt as a cursed couple trying to have a child. Their scenes together gave me the complete range of emotions that I want to feel when watching a movie. It is their attempts to break the curse that ultimately tie the other characters of Cinderella, Jack, Rapunzel and Little Red together. These characters are played well by Anna Kendrick, Daniel Huttlestone, Mackenzie Mauzy and Lisa Crawford respectively. I wasn’t as impressed with Rapunzel’s Prince played by Billy Magnussen though, because his character wasn’t developed like the others. He seemed more like a prop or a plot device more than anything, however, I did enjoy his charming brother played by Chris Pine. Pine’s little Shatner moment in his song “Agony” absolutely floored me. And oh yeah, briefly…Johnny Depp…creepy wolf…He got about as much air play as this statement.
The story was a bit stale in the beginning. Being a fan of Grimm Fairy Tales, I was already familiar with these characters and their stories (including the slight deviations from their Disney cartoon counterparts). Into the Woods, really didn’t start to interest me until after the happily ever after moment. To my surprise, there was an entirely new story—one that was not predictable, and one that actually held my short attention span. Even the songs were better.
A lot of people have their opinions on what this film is about, myself included. Art is meant to be interpreted by those who look at it. For me, the film (and even the woods itself) represented life, parenthood, and relationships. We see themes like expectations, change, love, lust, temptation, and loss both in the music and on the screen. Each of the characters explore many different aspects of these themes. As such, we get a much larger picture of those topics, which ultimately is what fairy tales are for.
I would give this film a 3.5 out of 5.