Into The Woods – Movie Review
Into The Woods – PG
Release Date: Thu 25 Dec 2014
Into The Woods is a minor miracle: a big-studio adaptation of a musical that has been rendered into a truly family friendly film that has enough to recommend it to all ages. It takes several fairy tales we know and weaves them together into a story that begins farcical before a very grounded, muted ending. There’s no epic CG battles here. While some younger children may fade toward the last half hour of its 124-minutes, they’ll certainly enjoy it in installments at home.
Sure there will be people who prefer the stage musical, but there’s no way to argue that version as a PG tale. Risque humor, death and other unpleasantness is muted or removed with whole characters disappearing in the translation for the sake of streamlining. There’s still a lot of characters, and (again thankfully) the stunt casting has been relegated to small parts. Johnny Depp’s wolf doesn’t become the focus of the tale. The major characters are the lesser known, less publicized names. Even Meryl Streep is used conservatively. She is great and her character is well served by not being shoehorned in for more screen time.
Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen get the biggest laughs with a melodramatic song where they try to “out-tragic” the other’s love story. A line from the trailer from Pine’s prince, “I was raised to be charming – not sincere” is a hint at how the character is used for comedy rather than as the sort of boring Prince Charming we’re used to seeing in fairy tale movies. Emily Blunt, James Corden and Anna Kendrick have the focus of the main story and edge out the others for screen time. It’s an ensemble story in that there isn’t a clear favorite protagonist or antagonist. There’s the grey morality that the Bakers are mostly doing what they think is right but inadvertently causing the problems for the other characters. The witch also isn’t truly evil in her intent, just selfish. This can be said of most of the characters prior to learning their lesson.
The adoptive family idea or the recent trend of familial love being just as important as romantic love is a solid part of this story, falling somewhere between Frozen and Maleficent in terms of effectiveness. As this may be the start of a tradition (if not a trope) it’s not the worst element to see proliferate in modern fairy tales. I highly recommend Into The Woods for all audiences, bearing in mind the length is a factor for the youngest viewers.
John A., Jeremiah and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car: