9-15 January 2015 #740

Into the Woods

Into the Woods collapses four beloved tales by the Grimm Brothers into one unholy, fairly incomprehensible mega fairy tale
Sophia Pande

Into the Woods is a smash hit Broadway musical written by Stephen Sondheim and adapted into a film by his partner in crime, James Lapine.

I, for one, have never quite understood (aside from opera) why stories need to be told exclusively in song, Into the Woods being an even more egregious example of this kind of lapse because it collapses four beloved tales by the Grimm Brothers into one unholy, fairly incomprehensible mega fairy tale.

Let me summarise: Once upon a time, there was a Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt). They are childless - the Baker’s father having been cursed by a Witch (Meryl Streep) for stealing magic beans from her garden. In order to reverse the curse (believe me this rhyme recurs throughout the musical) the Witch orders the Baker and his wife to bring her a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.

For those of you familiar with your fairy tales, you will probably have guessed that the cape refers to Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), the corn coloured hair belongs to Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), who the Witch has captured and is also incidentally the Baker’s sister, and well, the slipper is Cinderella’s (Anna Kendrick) though gold instead of glass (again a rhyming thing I’m sure). Finally, the cow belongs to little Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), remember the magic beans?

The poor couple has three nights to complete these absurd demands that catapult them into a flurry of activities (more antics really) most of which take place in the titular “Woods”. In the midst of trying to explain everything while singing at the top of their lungs, our various characters eventually escape from their tower, meet their prince charmings, find the goose that lays the golden eggs, and become parents – though not necessarily in that order.

Unfortunately, the film does not end there. Nothing can really save this unwieldy film – aside from the always wonderful Meryl Streep who is delightfully wicked and charming, sometimes within one breath. Emily Blunt is heartwarming, but poor Anna Kendrick suffers from a thinly written role as a rather unfortunate Cinderella who is forced to speak to birds and finds a callow prince indeed in Chris Pine, who perhaps has the best line in the film :“I was brought up to be charming, not sincere,” he says with genuine puzzlement.

If you really must watch this film, and you do love musicals, well, be warned, the only real draw here is Meryl Streep, and a very real possibility that you might fall asleep. 

Watch Trailer: