Into the Woods is a musical mash-up of your favorite fairytales that goes beyond the happily-ever-after to discover that things may not be as perfect as they once seemed after the first “I Wish.”
No stranger to the stage-to-screen musical adaptation, Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha) expertly translates the seminal score of Stephen Sondheim with book by James Lapine into a fun and delightful treat for theater and movie-goers alike and teaches us that serious stories can be silly, and silly stories can be serious.
The film’s opening song, “I Wish”, introduces us to our fairytale heroes; Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) of Beanstalk fame, Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and the Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) who’s story sits at center of the plot. We learn that years ago a curse was placed on the Baker’s house that forbids them from conceiving a child. Yet in a puff of smoke the Witch appears, played expertly by Meryl Streep, and offers them a chance to reverse the curse by procuring magical items. As all of their respective stories take them into the woods, paths cross, drama unfolds, and music, well, plays. With appearances by Tracey Ullman as Jack’s Mother, Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince, and Johnny Depp as the Wolf, it’s remarkable how balanced all the stories are throughout, yet still manage to afford enough screen time to large cast of characters.
While it’s no big secret how each of their stories end; Cinderella gets her Prince, Jack defeats the Giant and so on. It’s still a ton of fun seeing each of them get there. And once they reach their “happy endings,” the gravity of their new realities begins to set in, and perhaps the consequences of their previous actions aren’t as easy to cope with as they once imagined.
The greatest success of this film comes from the stellar performances of its cast. Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep are undoubtedly going to get some attention from Academy voters in the Best Actress and Supporting Actress categories respectively. While on the technical-side, Colleen Atwood’s costumes designs are a solid bet. Yet the real showstopper is the hilarious Prince’s lament, “Agony” which will have the whole audience roaring with applause and laughter.
Although Into the Woods takes a serious look at the consequences of what happens after the happily-ever-after, it is nevertheless still a charming musical medley of familiar fairytales that will undoubtedly delight a younger, be it, mature crowd. It opens in theaters everywhere on Christmas Day.