Movie Review: Into the Woods

Into_the_Woods_posterHere is what I knew about Into the Woods before I went to see it:

  1. It was a musical about fairy tales, specifically a funny musical.
  2. I’d heard one song from it.

That was pretty much it. I hadn’t seen a trailer, hadn’t paid much attention to casting, and hadn’t seen anything else from the original musical. It was just the only thing showing at that particular theater that I thought my mother and I would both enjoy, so we got tickets.

I think fans of the musical will probably enjoy it more than I did, because while I really loved the first part of the movie, the ending kind of left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Into the Woods opens with a number of different fairy tale characters—Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (of Jack & the Beanstalk), and a baker—all heading into the woods that neighbors their little village, all for different reasons. Cinderella desperately wants to go to the ball at the palace, Red is going to visit her grandmother, Jack is going to the next village to sell his cow, and the baker is looking to break the curse on his house that’s keeping him and his wife from starting a family.

However, they all should be a little more careful about what they wish for, and that’s what they’ll learn in the woods…

The casting is excellent all the way around. Meryl Streep was perfect as the witch (her introductory song is amazing and hilarious), I absolutely adored Emily Blunt and James Corden as the baker and his wife, and Chris Pine was kind of perfect as Prince Charming.

I loved all the singing and the songs, and really enjoyed the costuming and makeup as well. In terms of production quality, the movie was pretty close to flawless. They did an excellent job of weaving the fairy tales together, so that there are still several distinct stories, but they all intersect in important ways.

Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Woods

Absolutely nothing bad can happen to me in here!

I didn’t stop laughing for the entirety of the song “Agony,” a duet between the two princes competing about who has it worse: the one who’s in love with Cinderella or the one who’s in love with Rapunzel. Honestly, it was worth the price of admission just for that scene alone. It is perfect. (This gifset doesn’t even begin to do it justice.)

It did feel like Rapunzel’s story had been cut a little short, or at least, there wasn’t quite as much screen time devoted to it. I don’t know if it was like that in the play or not, but I really wish her stuff had been fleshed out a little more.

So what happened to leave me ambivalent regarding the ending? Well, first off, it looked like everything had wrapped up, and then there was a “suddenly, X!” moment that started an entirely new part of the movie, which had a vastly different tone than the first half. I was already starting to feel the length of the movie by that time, so unexpectedly seeing another 30 minutes get tacked on really wasn’t what I was looking for at the time.

What really irritated me, though, was what they did to one character in particular. There are MAJOR spoilers (regarding a character’s death), so highlight to read:

As I mentioned already, my favorite characters in the movie were the baker and his wife. I really liked the arc that they had, learning to work together in the woods in order to break the curse on their house so they could have kids and have a family. It was absolutely wonderful and I was so excited when they succeeded.

So I was really, really pissed when the baker’s wife was killed off near the end of the movie for a couple of reasons.

One, she died pretty much solely to further the baker’s character arc. He has his dark moment after finding out his wife’s dead, saying that she was the one who held everything together and he can’t be a father without her and blah blah blah so forth and so on.

Two, it was right after she’d been forcibly kissed by the prince. You could almost argue that her being killed was “punishment” for being kissed by someone not her husband. That entire scene made me so uncomfortable and was so out of character for her that I kept thinking it was going to be some kind of trick of the woods or something.

It’s really frustrating because, like I said, she was one of my favorite characters in the movie. She was practical and brave and flawed, and I absolutely didn’t believe it when she died. I thought they were going to find some way to bring her back to life, but no. And the fact that she was killed off just to add something to her husband’s arc? Really rubbed me the wrong way.

So yeah. The movie was excellent and I had a blast, up until the complete tonal shift. Those who are coming to the movie from seeing the play will enjoy it a lot more, I think, knowing what to expect. But the end really threw me for a loop, and just soured the entire experience.


5 comments on “Movie Review: Into the Woods

  1. I hear that from a lot of people, about the ending. But Clay and I went in sensing old-fashioned Grimm and knowing we were watching Sondheim. We’d never seen the original play, or read it, or heard it, or knew the whole story. But, well, Sondheim. Thus the sudden twist and GAH. I guess it didn’t catch us that off guard and personally, we liked it. Made it a bit less for the kiddies and a bit more raw. I can see why some people don’t care for it though.

    “Honestly, it was worth the price of admission just for that scene alone.” I’m pretty sure Clay said something close to this as soon as ‘Agony’ ended. Best. Scene. EVER. The song is great, but watching them try to ‘best’ each other while singing it is better. I died when they tried to open their shirts for dramatic effect. XD

    • Michelle says:

      I still randomly shout “AGONY!” and mime ripping my shirt open. I seriously LOST IT at that scene. Ten thousand kinds of perfect. I’m honestly surprised the dude sitting next to me didn’t have me thrown out of the theater because I didn’t stop laughing for five solid minutes.

  2. jeanmariebauhaus says:

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but this is pretty much the only Sondheim musical of which I’m a fan. It sounds like they stuck pretty close to the stage version (Rapunzel gets short shrift there, too, serving mainly as motivation for the witch), although I don’t recall anything unconsenting about the kiss between the baker’s wife and Cinderella’s prince.

    Not sure if it’s still on Netflix, but if it is you should definitely check out the original Broadway version with Bernadette Peters. Joanna Gleason is wonderful as the baker’s wife. Really, the entire cast is brilliant.

    • Michelle says:

      From what little I’ve heard from other people who’ve seen the stage play, it sounds like it was clearer that things were more consenting in that scene. I did wonder if there was a difference in the way that was portrayed in the play vs. the movie.

      I’ll take a look at Netflix and see! I’m curious if there’s anything major that got changed in the adaptation. Most of the people I know who loved the play really, really liked the movie as well, so if you do get a chance to see it, I’d like to hear your thoughts!

      • jeanmariebauhaus says:

        I do plan to see it when I get the chance. It’s interesting — I can totally see Disney not wanting to “taint” the Baker’s Wife by depicting her deliberately stepping out on her husband with the prince. But in the stage version, her dalliance is what gets her to realize how much she loves her husband and family and how lucky she is to have them. Which IMO makes it all the more tragic when SUDDENLY A GIANT!

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