Once upon a time…
Into the Woods, a beloved show for many Broadway enthusiasts, makes the move from stage to screen this Christmas. But does the musical translate well to the big screen? With a talented all-star cast, lush scenery and stunning costumes, and a humorous look at what happens after the ever after, Into the Woods is worth the trip to the movie theater this holiday season.
Into the Woods re-tells classic fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Jack and the Beanstalk in one sweeping story that ties them all together. At the heart of the story are a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt), who wish for a baby. A witch (Meryl Streep) has placed a curse on their family, and to reverse the hex they must journey into the woods to find four unique items in three days’ time.
Notable names like Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Pine are enough to get you into the theater, and they all deliver on their roles. Meryl Streep is probably already picking out her gown for the Oscars. She makes the Witch all her own, even for audience members who can only think of Bernadette Peters in the role, and doesn’t shy away from the big moments in “Last Midnight.” Johnny Depp sings the part of the Big Bad Wolf with a silky voice, and Anna Kendrick is the perfect Cinderella.
Chris Pine practically steals the show and audience hearts as Cinderella’s Prince. “Agony,” the princes’ duet, had everyone in the audience howling in laughter. Pine hams it up as the overly charming prince; in fact, he reminded me of William Shatner for the first time ever, something he never accomplished in the Star Trek films.
The real standout in the cast, though, is Emily Blunt. It’s almost hard to believe the same actress who played the incredibly tough and stoic action lead in Edge of Tomorrow is now the gentle (but also tough in her own way) Baker’s Wife. Her singing voice is beautiful, and she plays her part with humor and tenderness.
So, how does the movie adaptation compare to the stage production? Minor spoilers follow!
If you’ve ever caught the musical on Netflix or on PBS long ago, it’s impossible to not compare the film to the original cast and recording. Several songs are missing, including the transitional songs between midnights, the opening of the second act, and reprise of “Agony.” I can understand the need to remove the transitional songs as there’s no scenery to change, but I felt the lack of “So Happy” made the change of tone in the second half of the movie feel much more abrupt.
Removing “Agony (Reprise)” spares both princes from most of their less desirable qualities, but would have given the audience more of a feel for why Cinderella’s Happy Ever After isn’t quite so happy. It could be argued that Disney wants to keep their images of princes and princesses mostly intact, so Chris Pine’s Prince safely remains a likable character.
If you and your kids are fans of musicals, Into the Woods should go on your must-see list. It’s a family-appropriate film that elementary age kids can see with parents, but not all characters meet a happy end. Although there are dark corners and shadows in the woods, there’s nothing scary, and seeing a new take on familiar characters should hold kids’ interests from start to finish.
Into the Woods opens December 25, 2014, and is rated PG.
GeekMom attended a promotional screening for review purposes.