Let’s get this out of the way at the start – if you don’t like musicals or if you get stomach ulcers thinking about anybody taking your beloved fairy tales and “ruining them”, this is not the film for you. Just ignore it completely.
Having said that, if you know anything at all about this musical, you’re gonna love this version. Into The Woods stays close to the script. Very close. There is only one minor change that honestly doesn’t detract at all from the story. (Check out the end of the post if you want to know what it is.)
The story is taking the fairy tales we all grew up with and adding a special kind of dark humored twist on them. The way they all end up connecting with each other is quite funny and creative. This film is brilliantly written and wonderfully filmed. It’s a bit dark in places in terms of how the film looks but it could be argued that is fitting with the overall tone of the original material. The unique angles and stunning set also captures the mood of the Woods.
The biggest concern of any musical turned film is the cast. As wonderful as Les Miserables was, the whole film had its share of cringe moments when Russell Crowe opened his mouth to sing. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. Into The Woods has no such moments. Each cast member more than holds their own for the musical numbers.
The surprises start with Christopher Pine as Prince Charming. He is incredibly funny and his solo moment of Agony is a laugh out loud moment in the film. Johnny Depp adds another short but equally impressive performance as The Wolf.
The heart of the cast is superb. Meryl Streep as The Witch is…well, she’s Meryl Streep. Count on another Oscar nomination and somebody else winning it. She’s absolutely perfect in this role. Another shining star of the cast is Emily Blunt. She plays The Baker’s Wife and like Streep, she is absolutely perfect in this role. She was most recently in Live. Die. Repeat. with Tom Cruise and between these two roles, you can really see her range in acting. It’s phenomenal. I’m tempted to call her the ‘next Meryl Streep’ but Meryl Streep isn’t done so I’m not sure what else to say other than – she’s an incredible actress and should be around for a long time to come.
There are no weaknesses in the cast at all. No cringe moments.
The only downfall of the movie is the same as the original musical. In fact, it’s a common problem in most musicals. It’s the “The One Extra Song” Phenomenon. Think about this – every musical you’ve ever seen has that One Extra Song that you not only shake your head and think – why did they put that song in here? but it seems to make the production feel like it’s an extra 46 minutes longer. It’s not really 46 minutes longer. It just feels that way. Every musical has one of these numbers. Not sure why. Conspiracy?
Any rate, Into The Woods has it’s moment as well but it can easily be overlooked as the rest of the film is excellent. It’s a good movie for the family – given you like musicals.
In the original musical, we are told the story by a narrator that often breaks the “third wall” with the audience and the cast members alike. The film bypasses this altogether. Also in the musical there is the Crazy Man in the Woods that reminds us about which ‘midnight’ it is and ends up being the Baker’s father. This is also scrapped in the film and in my opinion, there really isn’t a lot lost by either one of these decisions.