Film, In Review: Into the Woods

On a stage not long ago, James Lapine imagined an effervescent tale with not one, but many heroes. He called it “Into the Woods”: a story about wishes, children, and growing old…


Emily Blunt (Baker’s Wife) and James Corden (Baker) in “Into the Woods”

A barren couple spend their days lamenting on their childless lives. From time to time, they care for the wanderlust child, Little Red (Lilla Crawford), who prances through their bakery shop to retrieve goodies for her absent Grandmother – little does she know that a ravenous wolf (Johnny Depp) lays in wait for a goody of his own. An unexpected visit from a horrendous neighbour, a witch (Meryl Streep), who gives them a wish no one else could offer: the gift of a child. And so, the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt), proceed into the woods on a scavenger hunt to retrieve a list of miscellaneous items requested by the witch to restore her once enigmatic beauty.

Anna Kendrick (Cinderella) in "Into the Woods"

Anna Kendrick (Cinderella) in “Into the Woods”

Meanwhile, under the depths of a modest cellar, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) is desperate to get to the festival, common day ball, where the alluring, yet overbearing, Prince Charming (Chris Pine) seeks a bride. In an act of defiance, and astonishing stealth, she alludes her evil Step mother and scales the garden walls to venture into the woods and to the ball where she will later create a cat and mouse scenario no sane villain would envy.

Simultaneously, Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen), travels on a venture of his own: to find the magnificent voice that graces the trees of an impeccable forest. Soon, we discover that this mesmerizing voice is none other than Rapunzel’s (Mackenzie Mauzy). Living on the precipice of death, a mother (Tracey Ullman) beckons her young son, Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), to sell their cow ‘Milky White’ in an effort to survive.

Daniel Huttlestone (Jack) and Tracey Ullman (Jack's Mother) in "Into the Woods"

Daniel Huttlestone (Jack) and Tracey Ullman (Jack’s Mother) in “Into the Woods”

“Coated with adultery, theft, and deception – the crux of this fairy tale – “Into the Woods” relishes in satire, adding a touch of humour to an already preposterous tale.”


James Corden (Baker) and Lilla Crawford (Little Red Riding Hood) in “Into the Woods”

There are Princes who sing of agony for not being able to woo women kept like prisoners in their respective abodes; a woman who sings to birds, and birds who sing back. There are little boys who climb enormous trees to no end and little girls who trust unsuspecting predators, human and animal alike; and an old woman on a quest to resurrect unfathomable beauty. Through the woods do these tales intersect, and form a marvellous narrative as the Baker, and his wife, Jack and his cow, Cinderella, and Little Red travel into the woods on a self  -fulfilling journey. “Into the Woods” is a cinematic flood, an amalgamation of century’s old fairy tales treasured by the Brothers Grimm breathed to life in this two hour visual.

Directed by Rob Marshall, based on the original play by James Lapine, “Into the Woods” creates a farce out of forgotten tales and childhood memories. The cast, starring Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Daniel Huttlestone, Tracey Ullman, Lilla Crawford, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, Mackenzie Mauzy, Billy Magnussen, and Johnny Depp is superfluous with talent from stage to screen.

Meryl Streep (Witch) and Mackenzie Mauzy (Rapunzel) in "Into the Woods"

Meryl Streep (Witch) and Mackenzie Mauzy (Rapunzel) in “Into the Woods”

Visually, the film is bathed in special effects in an effort to capture the witch’s miraculous apparition into thin air, to create a plausible image of the woods when the camera pulls out to a WIDE shot, and also to make magic beans flourish into a ginormous tree. Composite elements, specifically, the score and soundtrack, are fantastic accompaniments. Composer Stephen Sondheim created the score for the original stage production, and again for this film, whilst cast members held their own on screen and in the booth.

An adaptation in essence, “Into the Woods” has smoothly translated from stage to screen and cohesion, especially, in a film of this magnitude, is extremely essential.

With multiple story lines intersecting at various points throughout the story, each character relies not only on their individual ambitions but on the ambitions of their fellow scavengers because without them, desires would cease to be fulfilled. Nevertheless, executed eloquently, “Into the Woods” is a treat for the musical stage, and screen, heart.


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