Film Review: Into the Woods

Monday 26 January 2015 by

Into the Woods, Film, Disney

In the long run of adaptations of fairytales for film, you could be forgiven that Into the Woods is just another twee musical wrapped in golden slippers. Thankfully, you’ll be wrong.

Into the Woods is a satirical, often dark, look at famous fairytales, mashing them together in to a fast-paced musical narrative. It tells the story of a baker (James Cordon) and his wife (Emily Blunt) who wish for nothing more than a child. But the witch next door (a delightfully sharp-tongued Meryl Streep) has placed a curse on the house that means they will be forever childless unless they can procure certain ingredients for a potion. This central story interlocks with Rapunzel (the real, Grimm-version), Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the precocious Little Red Riding Hood, complete with Johnny Depp as the wolf.

This was an absolute delight of a film, with enough humour to make the constant singing bearable (I’m not the greatest of musical fans – although the soundtrack here was very cleverly done and not too obnoxious) and absolutely outstanding performances from Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep. Even Corden holds up his end of the bargain as a main character. But this isn’t your typical happily ever after story, with some really dark moments that hark back to the true Grimm’s fairytales. It’s a nice change from the usual Disney version. The story itself is clever, winding all the tales together neatly and making it feel like a nicely paced plot. Even the princes and their hammed-up duet feels well-played and not totally out of the ordinary.

We also need to take a moment to appreciate the vocals. From Jack to the baker, from the prince in love with Rapunzel to Cinderella, their voices are amazing. No awkward missed-the-high-note moments. Considering the songs were fast and tongue-twisting, it sounded brilliant. And the cinematography was brilliant, sweeping from day to night amongst the woods with picturesque ease, and the woods themselves feeling ancient and magical.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the film, as it’s not something I would actively seek out to watch. But it has a unique charm – a satire, a tongue-in-cheek look at musicals, and a respectful homage to the true fairytale; that dark, unpleasant and often frightening parable that was meant to teach children to stay in bed at night, not search for their prince. And, of course, Meryl Streep is an icon. The witch is pure class, the highlight of the film, and she is just outstanding. The hapless baker and baker’s wife are sweet foils to her ultimate goal, and there are moments of Devil Wears Prada sting in her performance, which makes it all the more wonderful. As the anti-hero, she is the highlight. This film is worth a watch just for her (and to admire Emily Blunt’s amazing singing voice, which I had completely not expected).

Less of a family film than, say, the upcoming remake of Cinderella, but a pure delight of a watch.

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