INTO THE WOODS
Directed by Rob Marshall
Starring Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Chris Pine
Rich in metaphor and double entendre, Into the Woods is the most risque family film to be released in a while. Disneyfied to the max, the screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical is every bit fantastical and clever, grounded by great performances from the likes of Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, and, the surprise of the film, Emily Blunt.
Set in a world where some of the most famous fairytale characters work and live, Into the Woods opens with a magical musical number that sets the tone for the entire plot of the film, naturally. Each character we meet has a wish in their life and become bound to fulfill. There's Cinderella (Kendrick), who wants true love and a life somewhere between nothing and everything. There's Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), who wants a happy life for himself, his mom (Tracey Ullman), and his best friend, a cow named Milky White. There's Little Red, a girl purposed on finding a family and delicious baked goods. And, there's a Baker and the Baker's Wife, who want desperately to build a family. The wishes of these characters collide once the Baker and his Wife meet the nasty witch from next door. She lets them in on a secret: their house has been cursed since the day she caught the Baker's dad stealing her beans from her garden. In order to reverse the curse, they must find four things: coat as red as blood, cow as white as milk, shoe as pure as gold, and hair the color of gold. As the Baker and his Wife head into the woods to find these things, every possible way of the classic stories intertwine for a clever, if not bewildering, tale of life and all of its journeys.
The Broadway musical, while charming, is known for its tongue-in-cheek references and questionable moments, especially that whole Wolf and Little Red thing. The film takes a lighter approach, thanks to Disney wanting it to appeal to a family audience, but it doesn't lose too much. The lyrics stay the same throughout even the most eyebrow-raising songs (we hear Meryl Streep use "rape" as a metaphor and the Wolf still says things like "pink" and "plump" when referring to how hungry Little Red makes him). The older crowd will catch the meanings, but director Rob Marshall makes sure not to focus on them too much. After all, what is a good family film that doesn't contain a little inappropriateness (when I saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit as an adult I was surprised at a lot of the content I loved as a child)?
Streep is the key player here. It's surprising that she's receiving bids in the Supporting Actress categories at the awards. She's nasty and intriguing at the same time. Kendrick is pleasant as the endearing Cinderella. Coming from a Broadway background, her voice is top notch. Chris Pine, as Prince Charming, is every bit debonair and douche. The audience loved his duet with Rapunzel's Prince (Billy Magnussen). It received the film's only ovation during my screening. The true highlight, though, is Blunt. Who knew she could sing? She's also proven before that she has great timing. She's that actress you easily forget about, but should always try to remember.
Each aspect of the film works most of the time. There are a few pacing issues, which may just be natural given the movement from the stage to the screen. Where other similar adaptations have lost some of the musical edge, Into the Woods still feels like a Broadway show. As a holiday movie, this one has all of the stops.
Runtime: 124 minutes