Into the Woods lasts about 40 minutes too long. Had it ended before those final 40 mins, it would be a film that I still wouldn’t much like, but I may still recommend to fans of the classic fair tales it makes reference to. Unfortunately, instead of sticking with the natural conclusion it reaches, it decides to continue with what my buddy Deer refereed to, as a dreadful sequel.
He is right, the last 40 minutes feel like they are right out of a different movie altogether, a terrible continuation of the movie we just watched. Those last 40 minutes are so stunning awful, I literally may consider them the worst 40 minutes ever laid to film. It was like Donald Kauffman had written the last part of this movie (and kudos to anyone who gets that reference!). Shockingly awful!
As I said though the other hour and 30 minutes of the movie, are an ambitious and sometimes fun retelling and mash up, of some the worlds most famous fair tales. It doesn’t all together work but it was a fun enough journey that I was at least never bored while watching the film. Its as if the Brothers Grimm tales have all come together to make a Avengers of Fairy Tales movie (as Deer said).
Based on the popular stage play, Into the Woods is the tale of four characters who all have a wish. Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) wants to attend the Kings Festival, which runs for three days. She of course is forbidden to attend by her evil step mother (Christine Barasnski) and two evil step sisters. Jack, a hard working farm boy, only wishes that his beloved cow Milkey White, would just give milk, so he doesn’t have to sell it at the market. His mother (Tracy Ullman) has had it and wants the cow gone and demands Jack sell it. The Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) wish they could have a child.
The Baker and his wife are visited by a Witch who lives next door (Merly Streep), who tells them that the house has been cursed thanks to the Bakers dad who she caught stealing beans, making it so the Bakers wife can’t have a child. The Witch says she will lift the course if she they can collect for her the following items: the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold. The have till 3 days midnight and to get it done.
Thus they start to enter the Woods an interact will all the other characters. See Jack has the Cow white as milk. Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) who is a regular customer at the Bakers store, has the cape red as blood. Cinderella after visiting her mothers grave, is giving a beautiful gold outfit, which of course includes the shoes as pure as gold. We also learn that the Witch has raised Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) who is actually The Bakers sister, and kept her locked in a tower. She of course has the hair as yellow as corn.
The story involves many sub plots which include a spectacularly awful Johnny Depp as The Big Bad Wolf, Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince who she runs away from every night of the festival, his brother (Billy Magnussen) who has fallen in love with Rapunzel and a giant bean stock that Jack climbs and angers the Giants that live in the world in the sky!
There is a WHOLE lot going on here and the movie has to blow past the Cinderella meeting the man of her dreams and Jack’s encounters with the Giants, both of which take place off screen.
As I mentioned above the movie is based on a play written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) makes the mistake of filming the movie like a stage production, which makes for very distracting and obvious, story breaks that take you right out of the film. However Marshall’s need to stay as close to the source material works to his benefit when it set designs, which are truly tremendous here.
The acting in the film is a bit of a mixed bag.
Merly Streep is as brilliant as always, playing the Witch with just the right about of ham, to not go to over the top. She is having a ton of fun you can tell but she doesn’t let that stop her from making a very appealing character.
Anna Kendrick is also very good, giving us a fun twist on the Cinderella we are all used to thanks to Disney movies. On the flip side Johnny Depp as I mentioned is horrible as the Wolf, going way over the top and completely making the character a silly beast. I also had trouble with Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood, as she seems to be playing the character a bit to much like Wednesday Addams.
The songs in the movie are another issue as none of them are at all memorable and the actors singing them are a mix bagged. Rob Marshall may have won an Oscar for Chicago in 2002 (BAD CHOICE!) but it is still very clear he has no idea how to film the musical numbers. Most of them come off like a hot mess and it takes away from the fun of the story.
Then there is the last 40 minutes of the movie.
I mean I just don’t know what anyone involved in the film was thinking. It takes almost all the characters in a completely different direction, that makes little to know sense and takes FOREVER to get to a very simple conclusion. Things happen for ZERO reason other than to add some shock value and make the audience say WTF!
Do yourself a favor and when the words “They lived happily ever after” are announced, get up and leave the theater and don’t look back!
Into the Woods tells a story that is absolutely worthy of coming to the big screen. Giving us a modern and twisted take on the fairy tales we all grew up with and have had Disney white wash for us. However Rob Marshall takes all the fun out of the film by giving it lame musical numbers and stories that go nowhere. I can see the crowds who loved Maleficent liking this movie and maybe even fans of Tim Burton’s later works. However no matter what makes sure leave before those godawful final 40 minutes!