Yesterday, I went with my family to see Into the Woods. I’m a big fan of musicals in general and I was really looking forward to it.
What makes Into the Woods unique is that it starts out with the fairy tales that everyone knows and then turns them all on their heads. The film follows the spirit of the original musical, if not the letter of it. Spoilers will probably ensue, so proceed with caution.
With that, I’ll talk about the characters. The one who stood out most to me was Anna Kendrick as Cinderella. I found myself relating to her character most of all. Her storyline follows the original Cinderella tale instead of the more well-known Disney version, which includes her stepsisters cutting off their toes and heels to try and fit into the slipper and getting blinded. However, the first half of the movie shows a major flaw with Cinderella: she’s indecisive about what she wants. When she finally gets her dream of dancing with the prince, she runs off three times. I understand why she ran the first time. She was overwhelmed by the new experience. But when she was contemplating what to do when she ran away the third time, I wondered what the heck she was thinking even as she was singing it. Sorry to say, girlie, but choosing not to decide is still a decision, and not a very wise one at that. There was no indication of any sort of “turn into a pumpkin by midnight” clause, since she’s seen putting away the dress she wore.
Later on, though, Cinderella finally learns what she wants…or at least finds a happy medium between the two extremes she experienced. Yes, she was trapped as a servant to her stepmother and stepsisters, but she became a princess, she was still trapped. She couldn’t go anywhere without a royal escort. She learned how to hold her own and take care of those in need and learned that not everything was completely black and white.
James Corden was the perfect choice to be the baker. I kept calling him Craig in my head because I knew him from Doctor Who. He had such great chemistry with Emily Blunt that it was hard for me to believe that the Baker’s Wife would cheat on her husband the way she did, let alone try to justify it to herself. However, I put the blame squarely on the prince’s shoulders. After all, he was raised to be charming. And the Baker’s Wife showed hints of wanting to know what being with royalty was like. But to me, it seemed more like she was in love with an idea rather than the reality.
Meryl Streep obviously had a lot of fun being the Witch. I loved her more when she was the scraggly old witch, though, than her more beautiful form. The witch’s motivations are understandable, but unlike what she claimed, saving Jack wouldn’t be the “good” thing to do. Her treatment of Rapunzel was deplorable, wanting her daughter to stay young forever, but the reality of the situation was that Rapunzel was all grown up and needed her questions answered. She was right in the fact that everyone had to stop blaming each other in order, though.
Jack and Red Riding Hood were also great, but Red’s storyline was kind of short compared to everyone else. After the wolf was slain, most of Red Riding Hood’s story arc involved her either motivating other characters or being supported by other characters. Johnny Depp as the wolf was as creepy as was expected. And hey, at least he wasn’t a pirate this time!
My least favorite characters were the princes, although that’s also to be expected. While “Agony” was hilarious, Chris Pine’s Prince Charming was a real sleazeball. Of course, given that Chris Pine’s other most famous character is known for spending time with female characters of every species, the casting was perfect on that end. I also didn’t like Billy Magnussen’s costume. It didn’t look like a prince’s outfit so much as an 80s glam rock outfit. But at least he and Rapunzel got their happily ever after.
The only thing I’d really change about the musical was the way it ended. It doesn’t have to be a total “happily ever after,” but I do want to see the Baker, Cinderella, Jack, and Red Riding Hood living new lives out of the woods. But then again, Sondheim tends to go against expectations.
I definitely recommend this movie to fans of musicals, but I will warn parents that this is not a kid-friendly movie in spite of what the PG rating may say. I would say it’s more for ages 10 and up because of the language, Johnny Depp’s very villainous song, and the implications shown in the second half of the musical.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot? And a little bit…not.