BioBooksAwardsComing NextContactBlogFun StuffHome

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: Into the Woods - The Movie


Before I even begin this review, I'll admit that I'm a fan of the theatrical version of Into the Woods. Of all the musicals I've seen, I'd probably put this in my top 5, so I'm coming at the movie with a biased point of view.

Into the Woods has this super premise. It takes a few fairy tales and twists them together. The first half is the stories were accustomed to and the second half is what happens after happily ever after. The last half of the play is very dark and somewhat grim, but not without it's moments.

My understanding is that the story that anchors the others, the baker and his wife, was created for the play, but the fairy tales that everyone knows are Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella. Since I loved the premise, I bought tickets to see the touring company when it came to Minnesota--all the original Broadway cast members were there with the exception of the girl who played Red Riding Hood and Bernadette Peters who played the witch.

When I first heard they were making a movie of the play, I was excited. Until I learned that there were going to be changes. The reviews I saw when the movie was released were mixed, and I waited for it to come on cable. So what did I think?

It wasn't bad, but it didn't have the same magic as the play.

Things I loved: Chris Pine can sing! And he made a terrific Prince Charming. His duet of Agony was one of my favorite scenes in the movie. I liked all the special effects that made the movie come to life in a way it couldn't in the theater. Beanstalks to the sky, getting to see the giant that was causing all the trouble in the second half, and I actually liked how they managed to eliminate the narrator's role, which was prominent in the play.

But there were things I definitely missed. In the play there's a reprise of Agony by the two princes. I loved it! It's one of the few truly funny moments in the second act and it was badly needed amid the grimness. I definitely missed it in the movie.

Meryl Streep is a brilliant actress, but Bernadette Peters owns the role of the witch and I would have preferred to see her recreate the role. Since she and Streep are nearly the same age, I don't see why she couldn't have played the part in the movie as well. As much as I enjoy Meryl Streep, she couldn't live up to Peters portrayal of the witch, IMO.

In the play, Rapunzel is killed by the giant leading to one of the most poignant songs in the second act when the witch mourns the loss of he daughter. In the movie, Rapunzel leaves with her prince, abandoning the only mother she knew. This severely undermined the emotion of the song/scene IMO and lacked the sense of desolation from the play.

The other thing that kind of bugged me as I watched the movie was how dark all the scenes were. Not as far as tone, I mean the lighting. There were some parts that were difficult to see because it was too dark. Yes, I get that most of the story takes place at night in the woods, but couldn't they have managed just one more amplitude of light?

As you can see, most of my ticks against the movie are all in comparison to the play. If I didn't know the play, what would I think of the movie? I think I would have liked it a lot, but not loved it. Which is kind of a step above where I am now.

But I do know the play and so while I liked the movie version well enough that I'll probably buy it, it didn't leave me enthused. It was, however, a beautiful production and I enjoyed the richness of the scenery and the costumes. I just wish it had been a little more like the play.

My rating 3 stars out of 5.
Bottom line: If you like fairy tales and musicals and if you haven't seen the theatrical version, it's an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.