‘Into The Woods’ is not your typical Disney holiday picture. It looks like it should be. I mean, with its fairy tale story you would think you were into something traditional. Well, you would be quite mistaken my friends. This is a 28 year old tale about characters that transcend generations and for most it will feel very fresh indeed.
This is because Stephen Sondheim is not interested in the typical or even what it is that you are wishing for. He wants you to be careful what you wish for. He is a man that is capable of making very dark tales feel light (Sweeney Todd) and very light tales feel dark. This film is the latter. A fairy tale about Cinderella and Rapunzel that isn’t afraid to kill off folks. However, just because the film ventures into darkness doesn’t make it any less charming.
The first half of this movie is just as wonderfully whimsical as anything Disney has done before and is filled with some of the most fun musical numbers you have ever experienced. The movie opens with an intertwining musical number that establishes all are major characters over the course of about 15 minutes. First, is the baker (James Corden) and his wife’s (Emily Blunt) deal with the witch (Meryl Streep). Then there is Cinderella’s (Anna Kendrick) wishes to go tohe prince’s festival, Jack’s (Daniel Huttlestone) trip to sell his cow at the market, and Red Riding Hood’s (Lilla Crawford) trip to see her granny.
They all will find themselves intersecting in the woods and they all will be connected by the witches deal with the baker. You see, the witch cursed the bakers house when the bakers father stole some of her food years before. She also took the bakers sister for good measure and locked her away in a tower (wonder who that might be). So, in order for the bakers wife to have a child they must help her break a spell. Which leads to a delightful first hour that will keep most of the audience smiling.
The second half is where the darkness comes in, but I can’t discuss that. I’ll just say that it is certainly a unique set of circumstances that these characters find themselves in and I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure why other reviewers have said the movie falls apart in the third act because I found it then the most interesting and it has the best song as well. Sure, people lose their way towards the end of this film, but that’s kind of the point.
The songs, performances, and set design is all spot on here. There are no musical numbers that are as catchy as the songs in ‘Annie’, but you won’t care much when you hear them. They all help to push the narrative along in a way that only good musicals can. I also can’t express in words how hilarious Chris Pine is playing the Prince. His mannerisms and singing voice are a hoot. So good.
Rob Marshall has been a bit of for the last few years, but this movie returns him to the glory of ‘Chicago’ in how expertly crafted it is. I hope they can take the success of this and use it to push a ‘Wicked’ musical. Marshall can direct it. There is no reason we should have to wait any longer. Audiences want this stuff and we should give it to them. I’m going to start a petition.