Now Showing: “Into the Woods”


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The Baker confronts Red Riding hood while on his quest.

Lilly Ball, Asst. A&E Editor

“Into the Woods,” the first film adaption of the famous stage musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, shows the darker side of the fairy tales we all knew as children. With a star-studded cast, catchy musical numbers, and an overall dark and mysterious feel, the film is an enchanted fairy tale mash-up, better suited for an adult audience.

The film starts by introducing its major characters, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), the Baker and his Wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt), a young boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), and Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), all singing about what they wish for in life. Cinderella, stuck in her stepmother’s house as a maid, wishes to attend the King’s ball. Jack wishes that his cow/best friend, Milky White, would give milk. The Baker and his Wife wish to have a child, and Red Riding Hood wishes to visit her grandmother in the forest and bring her treats.

After Red Riding Hood takes multiple sweets and a loaf of bread from the Baker and his Wife, the couple receives a visit from the evil witch next door (Meryl Streep). The witch reveals the reason why they cannot conceive—she has cursed the Baker’s family sterile because the Baker’s father stole from her garden many years ago. To reverse the curse, the two must go into the woods and retrieve a cloak as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, a shoe as pure as gold, and a cow as white as snow. Jack is sent to the market by his mother to sell Milky White, Red Riding Hood sets out to visit her grandmother, Cinderella goes to her mother’s grave for guidance, and the Baker and his Wife go out to retrieve the objects needed to reverse their curse. Each character enters the woods on their quest, running into each other in the process.

Though the official running time of “Into the Woods” is a little over two hours, the film seemed to drag on for at least four. After the film appeared to be coming to an end, with all the storylines tied up nicely, a major plot twist is introduced, thus ruining the happy ending and making the film much longer than necessary. Multiple irrelevant songs also extended the film. “Into the Woods” may be a musical, but few of the numbers were completely enjoyable. Many of the songs seemed forced and only served as a hindrance to the plot, while others were stuck in my head hours after I left the theater. Kendrick, who proved her singing skills in the movie “Pitch Perfect,” sings as beautiful as any Disney princess, while Streep, as the witch, sings with more personality to emphasize her character.

Despite the lengthy plot and pointless musical numbers, “Into the Woods” is saved by the superb acting of its cast. Streep played the sinister witch flawlessly, as is expected from the Oscar-winning veteran. Blunt radiates warmth as the Baker’s Wife and has a very palpable chemistry with her on-screen husband, played by Corden. Newcomer Crawford makes her film debut as Red Riding Hood by stealing the spotlight from her older and more well-known co-stars. Her sassy and comical character shines bright even during her scenes with legendary actor Johnny Depp, who plays the Wolf.

Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen play charming princes who are also brothers, both smitten with girls they cannot have. Pine’s character falls in love with Cinderella, who keeps running away from him during the King’s festival. Magnussen’s character falls in love with Rapunzel, who is locked away deep in the forest in her tower. The two princes share the most comical musical number of the entire film, “Agony,” in which they argue over who is more in love and more in pain, all while being extremely melodramatic and showy.

The film is undoubtedly different from Disney’s typical fairy tale films, not just because it is a live action musical, but because there is no sugary-sweet message. The film doesn’t feature the typical positivity and pureness found in most children’s movies; its magical characters are motivated by the human emotions of lust, greed and envy. All of the characters lie, steal, and make mistakes, making it hard to decide who is “good” and who is “bad.” Though “Into the Woods” is an unconventional Disney film, the audience can actually relate to the characters and understand their struggles, giving it a much heavier impact than any animated movie so far. Despite its flaws, “Into the Woods” is saved by its flawless cast, and just the right amount of magic.