BY TARA BAGHERLEE
Weaving together childhood fairy tales and the idea that every wish comes at a cost, “Into The Woods” is a completely unconventional film. Nonetheless, viewers will not be able to take their eyes off the screen, Sondheim fan or not.
The movie entwines Grimm Brothers’ fairytale characters such as Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) and the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), and a witch (Meryl Streep) into one story featuring a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt).
Director Rob Marshall adapted the movie for Disney based on the musical by theater maestro Stephen Sondheim and the book by James Lapine.
The original musical plays with darker themes, such as loss of innocence and it features more death, yet Marshall does a delicate job of keeping the original themes and implications while maintaining the PG rating.
Movie musicals tend to succeed only with a smaller audience of theater fans and do not transition well to the general public; not everyone is informed the movie he or she is about to see is mostly continuous singing for two-plus hours. Despite this, “Into the Woods,” and its fairy-tale appeal, although atypical, will entertain everyone, even those who walked out halfway through 2012 movie musical “Les Miserables.”
A particularly surprising performance is the Witch’s song “Stay with Me.” Streep is already known for dominating the silver screen, yet her pipes are impressive, leaving everyone to turn to his or her companion and wonder “Meryl can sing that well?”
However, the scene that truly signals the depth of the movie is the performance of “No One is Alone,” sung by Cinderella, the Baker, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack. The song not only sounds delicate and sweet, but also gives the movie’s message vividly with the lyrics, “Witches can be right, giants can be good. You decide what’s right, you decide what’s good.”
The movie and musical both embrace the ideas of wishes with a price tag, with the movie’s tagline “Be Careful What You Wish For…” and the importance and value of children, since the movie’s main plot is based on a couple struggling to have kids. Marshall intertwines these concepts while toying with the darker themes of innocence vs. impurity.
Marshall’s adaptation of the Tony-winning 1987 musical is faithful to the original, sure to please Sondheim-ites. The cast has appeal for everyone: whether one is there for the eye candy found in Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine) or for the incomparable Streep.
“Into the Woods” is enchanting and somber, a juxtaposition of the magic of wishes and the consequences they can bring.