Review: Into The Woods

My sister-in-law put this movie on hold at the library, and it came in shortly before her holiday, gallivanting off to the Old Country (England, of course), with a friend.

I don’t think she managed to see it before she left, and it’s due back before she gets home (apparently it was an option on one of her planes, so maybe she’ll get to see it anyway).

Into The Woods is a musical that appeared on Broadway in the late ’80s, but was not adapted into a movie until 2014. I think I’d managed to not really know about the story at all (I think I registered the term “fairytale” along the way). I rarely look at the Entertainment Weeklys that breed like Tribbles in the bathroom reading rack, so I didn’t read about it there. There’s something good about watching a movie with no hype, no preconceptions.

The story itself does feel like a theatrical production, though the film does seem to spread out characters and locations more than I would expect to see on stage. And of course the effects. Very difficult to do CG on stage.

We tend to watch shows and movies with subtitles on, makes it easier when kids are being loud. Only Youngest was in the room when we watched it, the others being in their own beds, and that was plenty to justify subtitles. A lot of those song lines go really quick, though, so the subtitles were nice in that respect as well.

A lot of the songs seemed to show up, go away, then come back, sometimes as throwaway lines in other songs, so a lot of the soundtrack seemed to blend together, didn’t really seem to have a lot of variety. But on the other hand, it never seemed to be repetitive enough to be tedious, and if you’ve been following my opinions on music much, you’ll know it doesn’t take a lot for me to get annoyed at music.

In telling four fairytale stories (Red Riding Hood, Jack And The Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Rapunzel), while weaving them together with a fifth story, some parts seemed to be shorter or less developed than I would like. Johnny Depp’s Wolf was fun, but essentially gets one scene. Red Riding Hood’s Granny was Annette Crosby in a blink-and-you-miss-it part. Rapunzel herself didn’t feel very developed and then isn’t really seen after her “happily ever after”.

Any perceived shortcomings didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the film. I like the actors (I didn’t realise that a particular character was Frances De La Tour until the end!), I liked the songs (more for the complexity and their part in furthering the narrative). It was fun.

For me, it didn’t reach the heights of “everybody should see this film!”. Although the fairytale-mashup genre has been done almost to the point of cliche since Shrek burst onto the scene, Into The Woods gets a free pass because technically it predated all of them. IMDB’s cumulative user rating is 6.0 for this film, and that doesn’t seem unfair. A bit above average, , but not so far as to be outstanding.

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