“Into The Woods” is an interesting idea, parodying and intermingling different fairytales, attempting to make them work together in one cohesive world. It has a lot of potential given the fact that Disney is at its helm, the cast is very impressive, and it draws on stories which are well known and well loved in the public sphere. However, this film doesn’t make the most of that potential, and although I haven’t seen the original work I would wager that it’s a lot more interesting than this muddled mess of a movie. “Into The Woods” suffers from strange pacing and an unclear tone, leading to moments of comedy which don’t hit their mark, a lacklustre story, and a confusing lack of direction.
The film is about a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) attempting to retrieve certain objects from the woods, so that an evil witch (Meryl Streep) will reverse a curse she has placed on the house of the baker. This curse disables the couple’s ability to conceive a child, so they are very keen to be rid of it, leading to all sorts of desperate high jinks involving other famous characters such as Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and Prince Charming (Chris Pine). There’s nothing about the story which means that this movie can’t work, because it lends itself well to a theatrical production, and it sounds quite magical when you first hear about it, but the way this film utilises these factors is far from great.
The tone is slightly strange, because at times it feels very dark but at other times it feels a bit like a joke. There’s one scene which felt particularly out of place in the movie, despite the fact that I did find it very funny, in which Cinderella’s (Anna Kendrick) step-sisters are forcibly held down as their feet are reshaped so that they will fit into Cinderella’s golden slipper. It isn’t a very family friendly moment, yet the movie is being sold to particular target audience. As I watched this movie I got the feeling that the filmmakers really didn’t know what they wanted it to be, and as a result it didn’t have one recurring tone or direction.
The performances aren’t that bad, all things considered, and in fact I feel as though it’s the script, not the actors, which lets the movie down. Chris Pine was quite entertaining as Prince Charming, and he brought a sense of enjoyment to his role which was very refreshing. It seemed as though he was having a good time playing this cocky, self-assured, mess of a man, and it showed when he had his big moment singing ‘Agony’.
Johnny Depp was fine for the few seconds that he was on screen, even if he was only doing the Johnny Depp thing, and Anna Kendrick was pretty good as Cinderella. Emily Blunt was as likeable as ever, and the best character of the whole film was Little Red Riding Hood, played by Lilla Crawford, an actress I have not previously come across. I think the actors do deserve some credit for how easily they took to the musical nature of the film, because none of them seemed to struggle to hold a note, and they did well to make the songs sound theatrical whilst keeping the film accessible for the children in the audience.
However, the one performance which I would like to condemn and criticise as much as possible is Meryl Streep’s. She’s completely over the top, which many people might enjoy given the fact that this is an adaptation of a theatre production, but I feel that she was quite pathetic as the witch. Her performance was dull and clichéd, and she brought nothing to the role that we haven’t seen millions of times before.
The film tried to be a different kind of musical, poking fun at its subject matter and making the audience have a chuckle, but Streep didn’t seem to get that memo. She wasn’t entertaining in any way, her singing was average and I couldn’t actually understand a lot of what she was saying while she sang. Furthermore, she conveyed no real emotion, and she made every scene she was in about herself, not so much stealing scenes from her co-stars, but spitting on them. I would’ve much preferred someone else to play the role, someone new who we haven’t seen in a musical before, but instead we get another Meryl Streep performance in which she tries to make the film all about her!
There were a few interesting moments in the film, and I particularly enjoyed Cinderella’s indecisiveness, because given her upbringing and her experience of the world, things outside of her comfort zone would be very strange and scary for her. Prince Charming was also given a good twist because he’s a bit of a creep when you think about it, and that’s put across by this film in a refreshing and humorous way. However, most of the movie was quite predictable, and there wasn’t anything noteworthy about it.
The movie started very quickly, pushing forward with its story and introducing a host of characters, but then it got stuck towards the end when attempting to put across a message about being careful what you say to children, dragging on with the extremely dull story of a vengeful giant. It was an odd film with no real purpose, and I feel that for this reason it’s a poorly executed adaptation. As I understand it the story and the tone have been changed slightly in the interpretation in order to fit with a younger audience and a PG rating, and I think that’s where the film has stumbled, which is a bit of a cardinal sin for any film adaptation.
If the film had intended to be a lot darker than it was I think it would’ve worked, because some of the main characters do die, and they are also quite morally grey in their actions and their motives. (SPOILER ALERT) The ending of the movie gets decidedly gloomy, as the Baker’s Wife (Emily Blunt) dies quite suddenly and unexpectedly and so does Jack’s mother. I quite liked the fact that they went there and didn’t try to make the story too childish, but it didn’t really fit with the rest of the movie. The character’s didn’t react to their personal tragedies in even remotely believable ways because the film didn’t want to be too much of a downer for the young children who they had marketed the film towards.
The fact that “Into The Woods” didn’t want to portray death in a realistic way really held it back, because the tone didn’t fit the dark story of the musical. For that reason I feel that the movie was let down by its marketing and the restrictions placed on it as it attempted to capture the source material. In attempting to adhere to the rules required in order to acquire a PG rating this movie became confused and lost any sense of identity or direction, making the film completely unrecognisable at the end credits from the film which had begun in the Baker’s house. On top of that, it wasn’t actually all that entertaining and I was quite bored by the end, so there’s not a lot of positives to take from a trip “Into The Woods”.