By Nico Beland
Movie Review: A- (3 stars)
Hey kids, who wants to see a Disney movie? Who wants to see a Disney fairy tale movie? Well how about a Disney fairy tale movie with all of your favorite fairy tale characters together. You name it, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, sounds like a match made in heaven, and it is.
Disney and director, Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) bring us their latest musical fantasy, Into the Woods, based on the Stephen Sondheim musical of the same name.
I’ve never seen Sondheim’s musical, but I think this movie convinced me to check it out, especially since I’ve been a long time admirer of Disney’s movies. For many children, this is a dream come true, their favorite fairy tale characters in one movie, it’s almost like The Avengers of Disney…if Disney didn’t already own Marvel.
The story begins in a village far, far away, where a young Baker (James Cordon-Starter for 10, Begin Again, All or Nothing) and his wife (Emily Blunt-The Adjustment Bureau, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow) dream of having a child together, unfortunately they just can’t seem to make one. That is until they are visited by an old, ugly, witch (Meryl Streep-The Devil Wears Prada, The Iron Lady, August: Osage County) who once put a curse on the bakery where the Baker’s father worked after he stole from her, preventing them from ever having a child, due to the loss of her beauty.
She tells them in order to lift the curse, they must bring her four things, a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold. So the Baker and his wife are off on a journey to find the items needed to lift the curse.
While that’s going on, a beautiful maiden named Cinderella (Anna Kendrick-Scott Pilgrim VS The World, 50/50, Pitch Perfect) dreams of going to a festival ball where she can get her “Happily Ever After”. Unfortunately her evil stepmother (Christine Baranski-The Birdcage, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Chicago) and stepsisters, Florinda (Tammy Blanchard-Rabbit Hole, Moneyball, Blue Jasmine) and Lucinda (Lucy Punch-Ella Enchanted, Hot Fuzz, Bad Teacher) forbid her from going to the ball and leaves her at home with a lot of chores to do.
So she flees into the woods where she finds her Fairy Godmother and makes a ball gown with gold slippers for her and off to the ball she goes. While there she meets her Prince Charming (Chris Pine-Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Rise of the Guardians), dances with him, and constantly flees from him due to her claiming that she doesn’t belong with royalty.
Meanwhile, a young girl with a red cape is on her way to grandma’s house, also coincidentally in the woods and she encounters a foul creature known as the Big, Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp-Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) who at first seems nice and glad to meet Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), but unfortunately the wolf inside emerges when he eats her grandma.
Also Prince Charming’s brother (Billy Magnussen-Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet, Happy Tears, Twelve), who is also a prince rides into the woods (Just like everyone else in this movie!) and finds a tall tower which houses a young maiden named Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy-The Bold and the Beautiful, NCIS: Los Angeles, Forever), with very long hair as yellow as corn, who also happens to be the “Daughter” of the Witch (Okay, if you want to go ahead and make connections to Tangled, you go right ahead because this movie is just asking for it!). Rapunzel’s prince guarantees he will see her again; let’s certainly hope he does.
Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood eventually run into the Baker and wife and agree to help them lift the curse, with the help of the white cow’s owner, a young boy named Jack (Danie Huttlestone-Les Miserables) who previously met the Baker and had his cow traded for a bag of Magic Beans (Gee, what do you all think happened?).
So the Baker, his wife, and their newfound friends must bring all the items together, lift the curse, and make sure everyone lives “Happily Ever After”.
Overall, Into the Woods is a very solid Disney fantasy, although I’m not sure how closely it follows Sondheim’s musical, but as a Disney movie, it pretty much does everything you would expect from Disney, but also throw in a few surprises along the way. The cast does a wonderful job portraying these iconic characters we all know and make them into something different and original, especially Meryl Streep as the Witch and Johnny Depp as the Wolf.
Streep does a fantastic job portraying the Witch and like most of the films I see her in, they always end with me asking “How does she do it?” which is a very good question. Johnny Depp, who previously worked with Tim Burton on an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street back in 2007, despite having limited screen time in this movie is very entertaining as the Wolf, you can tell just how creepy he is, but also very charming and cynical at the same time, truly the act of a talented man.
Besides the acting and directing, the writing and humor are very witty as well, especially when they poke fun at the fairy tales they’re referencing, the humor definitely resembles films like The Princess Bride, Shrek, and Disney’s 2007 hit, Enchanted.
So if you’re a fan of Disney, fantasy, or musicals, chances are you’re going to love this movie. It’s like going to Disneyland except you don’t need an airplane to get there, just a local movie theater showing Into the Woods.
I’m very glad I checked the movie out, it certainly is a unique but altogether wonderful Disney fantasy. Just don’t be surprised if Once Upon a Time makes an episode based on this.