#REVIEW: “INTO THE WOODS”
Review by Will Wong for Mr. Will Wong
Theatre Fans long have loved INTO THE WOODS, but even they need to be prepared for what a delight Rob Marshall‘s (Chicago) Film Adaptation turns out to be. From start to finish, every frame is filled with magic, transporting us far, far away to a World of wonderment within the infinite imaginations of the Brothers Grimm.
INTO THE WOODS intertwines cleverly into one grand Spectacle the stories of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. Only the Woods and we witness the paths these Characters have taken along their criss-crossing journeys. At the center of it all is The Witch (Meryl Streep), who sets out to teach these famous Characters a lesson or two. She offers to lift a curse cast over our Narrator, The Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt), which for years has left them both childless. The tasks placed upon the Couple to break the curse are rather specific: from Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), they must retrieve a golden slipper; from Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) they need a white-as-milk cow; from Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) they require a cape as red as blood; and from Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) they find hair as yellow as corn.
From here, we meet additional members in this Ensemble of Characters whom at some point cross paths in a way never before imagined of our beloved Brothers Grimm Stars. Will the Prince (Chris Pine) find his way to Cinderella? Will Rapunzel unite with her Prince (Billy Magnussen) and escape The Witch? Will The Baker and his Wife be gifted with a child? These are all questions we think we know the answers to, but INTO THE WOODS does a fantastic job making us want to find out all over again, with several crafty and darkly-comical twists. Screenwriter James Lapine does a find job giving us a glimpse into the hearts of everybody here.
Make no mistake – even among an A+ caliber Cast, Meryl Streep still commands our attention here and if there ever was any doubt about her having already delivered her best work, think again! She stretches her wings further than before and absolutely soars. You may have heard her sing in Mamma Mia, but wait till you hear her rendition of Stay With Me in a tender moment with Rapunzel. Marshall has proven time and again he is a Magician among Actors and manages to bring something new out of Streep and that is saying a lot. Depp, despite being seen far too little is deliciously-creepy as the The Wolf, also disappears completely in the Role. 13-year-old Crawford despite her young age, shows a level of seasoning which has her belonging with this remarkable Ensemble, while both Pine and Blunt will have your jaws dropping with their never-seen-before musical abilities. A fresh-faced Magnussen stamps himself certainly as one to look-out for and it won’t be long before we see his star rise further as he stars an upcoming Steven Spielberg project.
There is a certain magic about INTO THE WOODS which not every Musical Film Adaptation is able to achieve and on all counts, the Film is a treat for the eyes, ears (thank you, Stephen Sondheim!) and spirit. You are never too big and small to benefit from the delights shared and wisdom imparted here. We’re excited for a second viewing, already!
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada release INTO THE WOODS on Christmas Day.
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
I approached seeing INTO THE WOODS very much like a child on Christmas morning in front of a tree filled with gloriously wrapped gifts – with unabashed excitement and just a touch of dread. I had seen the original Broadway musical starring Bernadette Peters as the Witch and the Broadway revival with Vanessa Williams in the Role. Legendary composer, Stephen Sondheim, is a Genius; his Shows are sardonic, conceptual, witty and challenging. My fear that the somewhat dark subject matter would be glossed-over to be more palatable for the Movie Audience who had never experienced Sondheim’s later works was quickly squashed. In the hands of the Oscar-winning Director Rob Marshall and a dream Cast, INTO THE WOODS exceeds expectations.
In this reimagining of classic Fairy Tales by ways of three original Characters and Plotline, The Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) are unable to have a child due to a spell placed upon them by the Witch (Meryl Streep). She explains the curse will be lifted if the Baker and his Wife can find the four ingredients that the Witch needs for a certain potion — “the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold”. On their journey into the Woods to find these items, our heroes meet the famous Fairy Tale characters, each with their own back stories and issues.
Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) thwarts her Stepmother (Christine Baranski), goes to the Ball and bewitches the handsome Prince (Chris Pine). Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) meets the Wolf (Johnny Depp) on her way to Grandma’s House. Jack’s Mother (Tracey Ullman) sends Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) to sell the Cow. Another handsome Prince (Billy Magnussen) falls in love with Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) after hearing her sing atop the tower. How all these Characters meet and interact with each other is sheer magic and to reveal more would ruin surprises galore!
Musical standouts abound over and over again. The highlights include Kendrick’s haunting version of No One Is Alone, the absolute comedic brilliance of the lyrics and especially the performance by Pine and Magnussen of Agony, which elicited applause when it ended from the Audience attending the Screening I was at and Streep’s rendition of Children Will Listen gave me goosebumps.
Everything about INTO THE WOODS works. The Costumes. The Hair and Make-Up. The Set Decorations. The Cinematography. Every Performer has their chance to shine in the spotlight and they act it and sing it with perfection. To keep with the musical analogy, there is NOT a false note in the entire Movie. Kudos and laurels should be placed at the feet of Rob Marshall for bringing this unique and original Musical to life. He never shied away from the subject matter.
I left this movie singing the last line it in. “Into the Woods and out of the woods and happily ever after”.