Alternatives is the tagline feature for other forms of entertainment outside of discussing literature. These posts may encompass television, movies, games, and music with a randomized flavour of the moment approach to each post.
Movies – Into The Woods
Genre: Musical, Fantasy, Family, Comedy, Retellings
Duration: 124 Minutes
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Screenplay By: James Lapine
Music and Lyrics By: Stephen Sondheim
“INTO THE WOODS” is a modern twist on several of the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales, intertwining the plots of a few choice stories and exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. This humorous and heartfelt musical follows the classic tales of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone), and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy)-all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt), their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch (Meryl Streep) who has put a curse on them.
I have to preface that everything below is made by a viewer who hasn’t seen the original Sondheim and Lapine musical. So look elsewhere for commentary regarding its faithfulness. All I can say is both of them have been credited to being on board alongside Disney in the making of this film.
Into the Woods strikes me as a movie-musical that is easily accessible and can appreciated by non-musical goers. The intertwining stories are driven by the Baker and his wife as they learn of a curse placed on their home to which has caused for the barrenness of a child. The Witch details how the curse can be lifted given a limited time-frame of three midnights; and it is a journey which weaves the fables of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Jack of Beanstalk fame into one seamless narrative.
The character arcs remain distinct and don’t feel disjointed despite continually intersecting with each other. There seems to be an underlying assumption that each particular story is “known”, so context isn’t given to develop the character from what viewers may or may not know. Cinderella goes to a ball for three nights—awesome—but what of it? It’s telling versus showing that delineates how viewer compassion elevates the understanding of character dilemmas and their revelations in defining the success of this not-happily-ever-after. Viewers are [generally] told to accept things as they are without actually seeing it unfold—to craft the meaning themselves. I wouldn’t necessarily call these plot holes as those who know each story will remain unfazed but it does feel like some storytelling (not limited by stage production) is missing in overall appeal.
The real glaring issue I have is the diluted themes being, for a lack of a better term, “Disney-fied” while attempting to remain palpable to the older (and perhaps intended) audience. It’s the whole balancing act of being an emotional allegorical tale of real life and consequence while maintaining the whimsy of Disney (and these fairytales) which makes for an interesting watch. It sort of sits somewhere in-between the extremes of dark or chipper, kid or adult focused, good or bad; as if it was trying its best to satisfy both spectrums. And though I haven’t seen the original musical, my gut was certainly willing for the film to be more melancholic and darker considering the nature of the story. Were the messages still resonating? Perhaps, but it doesn’t discount the abruptness in how revelations and conclusions were treated to wrap-up quickly and without much needed grit to propel certain commentary to be more than just a passing event.
Can I also mention the brilliance in the theatre pre-show to run the 2015 Cinderella adaptation trailer (starring Lily James and Richard Madden—whom I cannot un-see as Robb Stark—as Cinderella and Charming respectively). And being a Disney movie and all, it’s like: “hey kids, get pumped with glorious epic music (a la Audiomachine and Switch productions) and the plot you know and love [so much]…only to enter Into the Woods with most of that notion turned on its head in the second half as the movie-musical enters the “and then what?” portion of the Brothers Grimm lore and throws in a dark and twisted reality check.
Overall, Into the Woods has a stellar cast with memorable instrumentation even if there isn’t a show-stopping number that would reach shower-belting acclaim (at least for me). It’s a solid movie-musical that has its enchanting moments of hilarious quirk (re: the princes in “Agony”), raw poignancy (re: “No One is Alone”), and thematic prowess that returns full-circle in the pre-credit roll. The two hours were enjoyable—satisfying but not earth shattering—and it does enough to push the need for the original. That’ll do it.