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Film Title

Into the Woods

Director

Rob Marshall

Starring

  • James Corden as The Baker
  • Emily Blunt as The Baker’s Wife
  • Meryl Streep as The Witch
  • Anna Kendrick as Cinderella
  • Daniel Huttlestone as Jack
  • Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince
  • Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood
  • Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel’s Prince
  • MacKenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel
  • Johnny Depp as The Big Bad Wolf

Something of a re imagining of classic fairy tales bound together with a newer story and put into a musical/fantasy hybrid from Disney, Into the Woods is also a mixed bag of sorts.

In classic fairy tale fashion, the movie opens with the words ‘Once Upon a Time’. The main story is of a Baker and his Wife who more than anything in the world want a child, yet somehow for them it has proved impossible. Into the Woods PosterThe source of this comes literally spinning into their home like a whirlwind in the form of an evil and very powerful Witch. The evil being explains that due to the Baker’s father stealing beans of magical properties from her precious garden, she placed a curse upon his family so that future generations would be unable to have children. The devious hag also took the Baker’s baby daughter and raised her as her own. The girl eventually became the long-haired Rapunzel, imprisoned in a tower from the outside world, singing lilting lullabies to pass the time. She is later discovered thanks to her lovely voice by a handsome prince, who falls deeply in love with her. Meanwhile, desperate to break the curse upon their family, the Baker and his Wife accept the terms of the Witch’s hard bargain. If they can procure four specific items from classic fantasy stories within the days before the third full moon, the curse will be forever lifted. Into the Woods WitchThis in turns means they must both journey deep into the mist enshrouded woods where magical mayhem and mystical mischief awaits them. We also have the stories running alongside this one, that include the items needed to break the curse. These consist of a young boy named Jack selling his beloved cow for magical beans that grow the famous beanstalk, a greedy girl in a red cape visiting her Grandmother as well as being stalked by a hungry wolf and a downtrodden Cinderella transformed from rags to riches so she can attend the nearby ball held by another dashing royal prince.

As aforementioned, Into the Woods is something of a mixed film of both excellence and parts that could have been improved upon. Rob Marshall does infuse the piece with visual style and theatricality, which is very befitting of the musical genre. And boy does the visual style deliver with the Gothic woods being a particular highlight of production design. The costumes are also very well crafted with technique and effortless skill. Into the Woods Baker and his WifeI must say I enjoyed Corden’s narration, he brought a wry delivery to it as magical events continued to mount. Where Into the Woods falters is in its length and lack of memorable musical numbers. Although the pacing in the beginning of the movie, in the second half it tends to drag and become a little boring. As for the musical numbers, the stream of consciousness approach is actually rather good for a while. Yet it can become very monotonous and though some numbers bristle with energy, there isn’t really a killer song to be remembered once the movie ends. The same can be said about the altering of classic fairy tales. In some cases it provides interesting and often dark viewing, but in others it should really have been left to the classic version. Saying all this, Into the Woods is definitely a more enjoyable movie that Marshall’s last musical Nine, but it still has many flaws.

James Corden and Emily Blunt are really good in the central roles and have humorous yet loving chemistry with one another. Blunt is especially excellent at portraying the good-hearted Wife with warmth and shows off considerable skills in the vocal department. Meryl Streep takes what is essentially a pantomime villain role as the crone and breathes life into it. You can really see that Streep is having a ball here portraying the evil and cunning Witch and she plays it with such delicious glee. As always when Streep is in a movie, she gives it calibre with her engaging and highly talented presence. Cinderella Into the WoodsAnna Kendrick combines a beautiful voice and sympathetic delivery to give a modern interpretation of Cinderella; as we watch her wrestle with indecision over a union with her Prince. Daniel Huttlestone plays Jack with wide-eyed charm and youthful energy as he inadvertently gets himself tangled up in this magical quest. Chris Pine is used too little to be really memorable. Though it must be said that his musical number where he argues that the pain caused by love is greatest of all is particularly funny. Lilla Crawford brings a bratty and not so sweet disposition to a successful revamp of Little Red Riding Hood. And it’s quite good to see another take on a character that is so often portrayed as winsome and lamb like. Billy Magnussen doesn’t have much to work with as Rapunzel’s Prince, just like MacKenzie Mauzy as the imprisoned maiden. Johnny Depp contributes a creepy cameo as the predatory Wolf looking to make Red Riding Hood his next meal.

So all in all, Into the Woods has its share of excellent moments partly because of some stylish direction and fine performances. It’s a shame that it couldn’t be more memorable considering all the attributes it had.

 

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