An Enchanting Journey Into The Woods


Disney’s latest musical, Into The Woods, delivers much of what it promised – great performances, an intricate story and an all-around magical time.

Into the Woods tells the story of a Baker and his wife who wish to lift a curse that was placed on their house. To do so they must complete the witch’s task – to gather a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.

Starring classic characters, like Cinderella, but with a modern and genius twist!

The best thing about Into The Woods are the grand musical productions. The music and the cast performances were equally astounding. Along with the lush backdrops, it all made for a very wonderful and enchanting experience.

Into The Woods' colorful cast of characters.

Its star-studded casts delivered some of the best musical performances of their careers. Chris Pine may not have had as much musical pizzazz as the rest of the cast, but never the less gave some solid performances. (Still so much better than Russell Crowe in Les Mis) His waterfall duet with that other prince was hilarious and entertaining to say the least. Even James Corden, who’s best known for his comedic work, gave a charming show.

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But the real standouts were Meryl Streep as the Witch and Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife. Streep’s witch was intense, genuinely frightening and at select moments, sympathetic. And man, does Streep have some pipes! Her singing blew me away! But it’s caliber you’d expect from a veteran like Meryl Streep. On the other hand though, I was pleasantly surprised by Emily Blunt, who I last saw kick copious amounts of ass in Edge of Tomorrow. Coming from that, you can understand why seeing her in this theatric form is just so wonderful to me. That woman is seriously talented.

Meryl Streep dishing out some serious vocals as the Witch!

Stephen Sondheim’s music electrified. His unique and sometimes slightly eerie melody and its elaborate lyric writing were powerful/beautiful stuff. You may wonder why it sounded similar to the music of Sweeney Todd (which I also loved). Well it’s because they come from the same man. Stephen Sondheim is undeniably a master of his art.

The stage-to-film adaptation was in good hands with Rob Marshall, who also directed the film adaptation of Chicago. You can almost feel his careful handling of the material. He never goes too far with the effects or flare, but focuses on the music, the movements, and the emotion behind them.

As for the story, one thing is for sure, it was an ambitious effort to weave all these famous fairy tales – Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk – into one, coherent plot. And for the most part, it works. The story is creatively crafted and everything fits to a T. It was a delightful experience to watch all these different threads and distinct and loveable characters come together by the end of the first act. And how each one of them intertwines with the main narrative of the Baker and his wife was genius!

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Immediately loveable original characters.

But some might find the second act (especially its end) of the film a bit more disconcerting. The whole movie was a lot darker than I expected. I even forgot that this was a Disney film! But the story makes an unexpectedly grimmer turn at the end. It’s refreshing to see Disney do something like this, but by my experience, only a select few appreciate this kind of morbid tone. 

The ending itself might feel confusing. (SPOILER ALERT. STOP READING IF YOU’RE STILL ABOUT TO WATCH.) On the surface, it feels like everything they’ve set out to do was all for naught. All their wishes and desires were negated by the tragedy they all suffered in the end. So some would be tempted to ask, what was the point of all that then?

I myself was baffled by the aim of the story. Was it trying to say that happy endings are an antiquated ideal? That happy endings are somewhere between bad and perfect? Was it about the woods itself, as a character, a place where consequences don’t matter (Like Vegas)? Was it a take on human selfishness and vanities? Was it about the moral complications of self-preservation, infidelity, theft, revenge, or murder? Or should it simply be appreciated as an adventure in which the value is found in the collection of the different lore?

There’s definitely a lot to ponder on, maybe even too much for casual watchers. And I guess it could’ve been delivered more elegantly. The disjointed 2nd act, along with its odd pacing and jarring transitions, as well as the vague representation of the movie’s moral core, all made it difficult to appreciate the movie’s bottom line.

Also, Johnny Depp was a giant perv. Seriously.

Into The Woods was a fine example of musical brilliance. It’s (almost exhausting) relentless, top notch singing is only rivaled by its equally outstanding production values. You may not be singing the songs after watching, but its unique melodies are sure to play around in your head for a while. But it can be as dark and disorienting as its title suggests so it’s definitely not for children looking for a lesson-for-the-day kind of Disney film. For you to enjoy the film, it helps if you let go of your perceptions about where this movie should or shouldn’t go, and merely savour in the music and the glamor and the wonder of going…into the woods!


1 comment:

  1. I love the act where Cinderella, Red Ridding Hood, Jack, Baker and The witch throwing blames on each other in a musical way :D. I am a bit bit disappointed about the casts whose appearance lasts for 3 minutes and less.
    But i enjoyed it also SO MUCH..... I wish.. I wish...

    I think an average rating would be enough :D