‘Woods’ dark, deep and delightful
By Bob Bloom
“Into the Woods” is an anti-fairy tale musical that warns of the consequences of wishes — especially when they come true.
The Tony Award-winning musical was directed by “Chicago’s” Rob Marshall and adapted from the Broadway show by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.
Produced by Disney, the studio did tinker with the subversive tone of the play, which — be warned — features a dark second act.
(Ironically, a trailer for Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation of “Cinderella” precedes the film)
The film centers on a baker and his wife who wish for a child, but a curse placed on their house by a witch prevents that.
To break the curse, the witch tells the couple to go into the woods and fetch them three specific objects.
In the woods, the pair meets Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Jack of beanstalk fame.
The first act presents the happily-ever-after endings you expect. In the second act, the heavy price of dreams takes their toll.
A strong cast of actors who do a respectable job as singers makes for an enjoyable two-plus hours.
Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella and Meryl Streep as the Witch offer fine renditions of Sondheim’s sometimes tongue twisting and overlapping lyrics.
The film’s biggest surprise is Chris Pine as Prince Charming, a strutting, preening egotist who sums up his character by telling a betrayed Cinderella, “I’m charming, not sincere.”
James Corden as the Baker anchors the film. His character is kind, a bit naïve and decent. He and Blunt work well off each other, as she is the smarter and shrewder of the two.
Streep brings an air of vulnerability to her Witch, who is not really wicked as much as hurt.
Kendrick’s Cinderella is a sorrowful soul who feels disappointed by her prince.
The Sondheim music and lyrics are the film’s foundation. You cannot help but leave the theater humming some of the tunes.
The movie feels artificial at times; the scenes shot on soundstages appear jarring when compared to those filmed in actual forests.
Plus, Johnny Depp’s cameo as the Wolf is not one of his brighter screen appearances. He seems out of place and out of sync with the tone of the film.
But that is simply a nitpick.
Aficionados the musical genre will appreciate “Into the Woods” for its music, its acting, but, most of all, for its story.
Yes, its message is simple, but it’s also true. Sometimes, the price we pay for fulfilling our dreams may be more than we imagine or are willing to spend.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at Reel Bob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
INTO THE WOODS
3½ stars out of 4
(PG), for adult themes and some violence