I feel kind of bad about reviewing Into the Woods (2014), because I’m a big ball of “meh” about it. Oh, there were some great aspects to it, but those were dragged down by others. However, I’m probably the only one of us to actually see current movies while they’re current, so I thought I should post about it. My review can be summed up as: yes, yes, no, yes.
The Story: Yes
The story is cute! Yes yes, let’s mash up all the fairy tales AND explore their darker sides. I am so totally on board with this. My second favorite fiction genre is fantasy, and I love books that are twisted or fleshed out versions of fairy tales. At least in the West, we’re raised on fairytales. To this day, my copy of Tasha Tudor’s Book of Fairy Tales remains on my bookshelf, as a reminder of the many hours my mother spent reading those to me.
This doesn’t just apply to books, though. I also generally or quite liked Ever After, Ella Enchanted, Maleficent, Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman, and most of the Disney movies.
So yes, I liked very much that Into the Woods was all about the fairy tale mash-up AND the darker side of fairy tales. I mean, who doesn’t love things from the original Grimm’s tales, like Sleepy Beauty waking up pregnant with twins, or the ugly step-sisters cutting off toes to fit into the glass slipper?
The Acting: Yes
The performances were very good! Meryl Streep as the Witch, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, James Corden as the Baker, and Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife were all particular standouts. Chris Pine was also entertainingly cheeseball as one of the Princes. I found the characters of Little Red Riding Hood and Jack annoying, but I’m guessing that’s probably the character, not the acting. I did think Johnny Depp was kind of cheeseball as the Wolf, but his part was surprisingly (and thankfully) minimal.
The Music: No
Here’s where we get to it: THE MUSIC SUCKED.
Now, I quite like musical theater. In fact, when I was in high school, I just may have been a total Les Miserables geek. As in, I’ve seen the stage version at least 4 times. I have sung along to the soundtrack probably 100,000,000,000,000,000 times — I could still sing you every note/word if you asked me (don’t ask me). I have seen all of the modern film versions. I also have voluntarily enjoyed many other musicals, including Evita, A Chorus Line, Mamma Mia!, Wicked, Grease, Annie, Mary Poppins, Dreamgirls, The Sound of Music, The King and I, Godspell, and Anything Goes. (Full confession, I think The Phantom of the Opera is crap, and I don’t get the appeal of Rent).
So I have ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM with people randomly bursting into song, or singing their dialogue, or pausing the story to sing a song about their motivation or some flowers. I’m down. (Unless a chandelier is going to fall into the audience while mealy girls sing).
Oh, and I should say that I’ve never seen Into the Woods before this film version.
But this music? IT WAS INTERMINABLE. IT WAS THE SAME SONG, OVER AND OVER OVER. AND OVER. AND OVER. I almost stuck a fork in my ear when the credits came up and we were treated to “INTO THE WOODS INTO THE WOODS” ONE MORE TIME.
I can’t say much more. The singing was passable on the part of the performers. But apparently Sondheim had run out of ideas for melodies, because I REALLY felt like it was one interminable song that never resolved, never crescendoed, never finished, NEVER EVER EVER.
Okay. I have to stop thinking about this music now.
The Costumes: Yes
So here’s the good news. Colleen Atwood’s costumes were STUNNING, and here is your proof that I’m fine with taking historical costume and having fun with it: I LOVE that she twisted and mashed up eras and sometimes went with pretty and sometimes went with crazy! I have NO problem with this when it’s either A) appropriate or B) done well with commitment. Luckily, here we have both, plus Atwood’s incredibly talented skills. Furthermore, given that the film is all about twisting and mashing-up fairy tales, it made perfect sense that Atwood twisted and mashed-up historical eras.
If you’re interested in the costumes, we’ve been posting a ton of news articles to our Facebook page. Here’s a roundup: