Disney’s latest musical promised plenty on paper, but how did the big-budget blockbuster go down with the fans? Carmen Paddock and Flora Carr, give us the low-down from both sides of the divide.
It is easy to see why Into The Woods has been one of the season’s most hotly anticipated tickets; the Stephen Sondheim musical has a huge fan following and its cinematic adaptation features possibly the most A-List cast of the year.
Fortunately, for the most part, the promise delivered. This is a gorgeous film both visually and aurally. The talented cast do not disappoint in their iconic roles. The plot follows the intertwining lives of classic fairytale characters: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (of Beanstalk fame), Rapunzel, Prince Charming and his brother, a Witch, a Baker, and his wife. All have wishes, and they all come true. The aftermath, however, may be more than they bargained for.
This fantasy world created is a timeless one – a quaint village, a dark and twisted wood, and extraordinary occurrences – and the special effects appear supernatural without looking terribly fake.
The cast is the film’s selling point, and they are excellent across the board. Meryl Streep, nominated for another deserved Oscar, lends a visceral vulnerability to the Witch – a ferocious yet fragile woman who is completely believable despite her magical abilities. The Baker is given both great humour and great depth by James Corden, while his wife is portrayed by Emily Blunt (whose warm voice delivers a gut punch).
Anna Kendrick is a bright voiced, self-effacing Cinderella, and Chris Pine is her rakish yet endearing Prince Charming. Daniel Huttlestone and Lillia Crawford – both with tremendous voices for the youth – provide a spunky Jack and a vivacious Little Red. Elsewhere, Johnny Depp makes a particularly bizarre appearance as the Wolf; it is perfect casting.
As with all stage-to-screen adaptation, there were some changes to Into The Woods. I won’t discuss them in detail to avoid spoilers, but suffice to say that this is sanitised Sondheim. The Wolf’s song is edited to remove the most inappropriate of its innuendos; one almost thinks he is merely fantasising about eating Little Red… moving swiftly on, some of the dysfunction and deaths are altered (slightly or severely) to give the story a rosier feel. That said, the point of this musical is to analyse what happens after ‘happily ever after’, and it succeeds in capturing the woe the wishes inevitably bring
While Disney appeared to break it’s own mould of happy endings on the surface, by considerably softening Sondheim’s brutality, some of the stage production’s diehard fans may be disappointed. On the whole, however, it is a fantastical adventure, beautifully designed and marvellously sung.
When my friends suggested we go see Into the Woods, a Disney re-telling of a mish-mash of fairytales, I’ll admit, I jumped at the chance. It had all the right ingredients: songs, that cute kid from Les Mis, Johnny Depp in face paint, Meryl Streep in an Oscar-bait role, James Corden in leather. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, watching Into the Woods was like trying to cook your favourite meal from home with yourfavourite meal from home with your Mum’s recipe in hand; the ingredients are all there, but you still end up with a grey, charred lump at the bottom of your saucepan. Even Meryl in a blue wig couldn’t save this culinary disaster.
The film begins by introducing us to the five main characters: Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk), and a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt).
They all proceed to sing ‘I Wish’- an extremely catchy and extremely annoying song- for about twenty minutes. By the end of that twenty minutes, you have a headache and you’re inwardly screaming at the scriptwriters to hurry up and just give them their wishes already.
Once they all go off into the mandatorily sinister woods to find their wishes, the plot goes from monotonous to convoluted, with dead-end plot-lines left, right and centre. The script writers also decided to keep the original Victorian morals behind many of the fairytales, meaning that when Johnny Depp appeared, it was as an uncomfortably paedophilic Big Bad Wolf singing about ‘succulent girl flesh’.
I’ll admit, there were some good moments. The duet ‘Agony’ has two sexy princes rolling around in a fountain and one-upping each other by ripping open their shirts. But even a topless Chris Pine couldn’t save me from what was a dull and cringe-inducing 124 minutes. And that’s saying something.