I attended a press release of this movie. I was not compensated in any way for this review and all thoughts are my own.
As a kid I cherished a good musical.
I remember watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Oklahoma on TV with my mom. My lovely Aunt Teresa took me to my first play: A Chorus Line.
I was in love.
I can’t sing. Like… at all. It’s really bad, y’all.
That doesn’t matter though, when you belt out show tunes at the top of your lungs in the car. As long as the songs tell a good story, the story will cover the fact that your voice sucks, right?
This summer I casually paid attention to the hype about the Walt Disney Studios musical, Into the Woods. The adaptation of stage musical to big screen resulted in a lot of talk online.
Questions I saw included: Would it be ruined when Disney took over? Would it be something my children could see? Will my favorite song make it into the film?
I had never seen this play onstage. Truthfully, I didn’t even know what it was about.
But I did know a few things: the movie stars Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and, oh yeah, JOHNNY DEPP.
If Meryl Streep is singing, I’m going to see it. If the lovely Anna Kendrick will be there, I’m going to see it. Oh, and that cutie Chris Pine? Yeah… I’m going to see this one.
And really, can this world have too much Johnny Depp?
No. No it cannot.
The story goes like this: A baker and his wife desperately want to have a child. They learn from the witch next door (Streep) that a curse has been placed on their house. To lift the curse they must travel into the woods and bring back 4 specific items.
Into the Woods they go.
On their quest they run into familiar characters who went into the woods for their own reasons. You’ll recognize them from your favorite fairy tales: Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel.
To get to the point: I loved it.
As I left the movie I was downloading Into the Woods on the way to the car. Yes- if you pull up next to me, you may get to witness my version of “On the Steps of the Palace.”
The movie is stunning. The audience is certainly transplanted into the woods with the Baker and his wife. I know this is something that can be lacking in a stage production; they can’t quite submerge you into the scenes like a movie can.
It feels right.
Both the acting and singing are superb. My favorite scene happens between Cinderella’s Prince (the yummy Chris Pine) and his brother, the Other Prince (Billy Magnussen).
Both guys find themselves in a pickle. Their women (Cinderella and Rapunzel) are playing hard to get! In the best song of the movie, they sing about their “Agony”.
It’s pure gold, y’all.
All those questions people fretted over? I think I can answer them.
Did Disney ruin the story? No way. It’s still intact based on my research. Sure, it’s been trimmed for time and some plot lines were altered slightly. But overall, it’s still very much what you loved onstage.
Spoiler Alert: The Rapunzel storyline has changed. Coincidentally it was also the one area that I didn’t feel resolved itself like the other plot lines.
Would I take my children to this movie? Yes. With a caveat.
I’d take them as long as they are interested in musical theater. It’s a 2-hour-long movie with a lot of singing. Keep that in mind.
As far as the subject matter, I think the racier version you see on stage is toned down quite a bit. There are also dark story lines and deaths of prominent players, but I felt they were handled with enough care that children should be able to watch.
Is my favorite song missing? Errr… that one I can’t say. It might be. There are some stage songs that did not make the movie. The one that most people worried about, “Hello, Little Girl,” did make it to the movie version. And Johnny Depp is amazing.
I loved Anna Kendrick in the role of Cinderella. She made me laugh and sigh and cry a little when her wish wasn’t quite what she expected it to be.
Into the Woods is rated PG and opens TODAY in theaters around the country.
Have you seen the stage or the movie version? What did you love the most about the story?
Patty Holliday is a movie critic, writer, and podcaster living in the Washington, DC area. Her goal is to bridge the gap between casual fandom and picky critic with parent movie and television reviews.