“Into the Woods” is a Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim brought to film by Director Rob Marshall and Disney Studio. The music is often jaunty, sometimes catchy, with thoughtful, introspective lyrics.
This musical is a fairy tale parodying fairy tales. It is a satire, exploring the role of “Prince Charming” in the dreams of young females as well as the hopes of prospective princesses.
The storyline pulls together the fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel with an original story about a baker and his wife who have been unable to have children. The witch next door admits putting a curse on the baker’s father, a curse that is still causing problems a generation later.
Movie poster for ‘Into the Woods.’ Courtesy/Reel Deal Theater
The actors in this film seem to be having a good time. Some of the roles are quite memorable. Anna Kendrick nearly steals the show as Cinderella. Meryl Streep is, as always, perfect, this time as the witch; she brings surprising depth to what is usually a one-dimensional character. Johnny Depp plays a conniving wolf, quite worth the price of admission. Other favorite actors are in this film, including Christine Baranski as the evil stepmother, Tracy Ullman as Jack’s mother, and Chris Pine as Prince Charming.
The funniest part of the film is when the two princes charming sing their duet “Agony”; the two brothers compete for which of them is suffering the most for love. When the future king says to a disenchanted Cinderella/Princess, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere,” the whole audience laughs.
In writing this musical, Sondheim delved into the role of story in our lives, especially of fairy tales in the lives of children. A recurring theme here is parent-child relationships and the desire to have children. Even the witch, who has played the mother to Rapunzel, finds it difficult to let go of her “daughter” when it is time for her to leave home and get married. In the last scenes of this 125 minute film, a new family has organized itself, developing trust, working together to overcome evil and protect one another.
Into the Woods is rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material. It is too dark for little children and may be boring for anyone unable to see the point of the musical. But for lovers of musicals, it might be worth seeing again and again.