Musicals are fun. Musicals are entertaining. Good musicals are downright brilliant. Remember Chicago? I cannot even imagine not liking it. Admittedly, Les Miserables was a tad weird, but it was wonderfully executed nonetheless. Then there’s the most recent adaptation of Annie, which sort of opened the floodgate again. I guess I could go on for hours.
Needless to say that when the news about Disney’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woodscame out, I quite contain my excitement. I mean, come on! There’s something absolutely magical about Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt being on screen together – The Devil Wears Prada taught us that much. And don’t even get me started on Johnny Depp! Yes, I was excited.
Did the film live up to my expectations though? Now, that is the question!
At the same time, somewhere else in, perhaps, the same village, Cinderella is living a hard life with her evil stepmother and nasty stepsisters, dreaming of attending the ball at the palace. Luckily for her, her mother’s spirit is kind enough to grant her this wish, and you know how the story goes with the Prince and the shoe and all that. Except, scratch the ‘happily-ever-after’ part. This stuff is overrated anyway.
Then there’s Jack who need to get to the next village to sell his cow, and Little Red Riding Hood on her way to her Granny’s house. They all meet in the woods. A hundred times.
About an hour and a half later, the story ends, leaving us with more questions than it probably should. What happened to the Witch? Or Little Red Riding Hood’s family? Or Rapunzel? Did the Baker find out the truth about his missing sibling? Did everyone who died in the second act really have to die?
The thing with the musicals is that it’s hard to take them seriously as is, what with people starting to sing spontaneously now and then. It is even harder to make sense of them when there’s so much crammed into the plot that some of the stories barely get enough screen time at all. I was genuinely surprised to see Rapunzel whenever she happened to appear for 30 seconds (or less) because of how insufficient her involvement seemed to be.
And, I hate to admit it, for the musical, Into The Woods didn’t have enough music or singing. You’d expect to leave the theatre after watching something – anything! – Disney, humming a tune or two under your breath. Sadly, with Into The Woods, there wasn’t a single memorable song worth remembering. It did have nice start, and yes, it managed to carry the ‘Be careful what you wish for’ message quite nicely, but overall it was hardly what I expected it to be.
The performance of the key cast was perfect, hands down. Give me Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, and Anna Kendrick any day of the week! You can’t possibly go wrong with them – not that we didn’t know that already. Both Lilla Crawford and Daniel Huttlestone are adorable and genuine in their roles. I really wish we had less Prince and Prince II (did he even have a name or purpose?), and more Johnny Depp as Big Bad Wolf, whose acting was brilliant and very short lived. It is sad that even the impressive constellation didn’t save Into The Woods from being a rather mediocre and, unfortunately, forgettable film.
Final verdict: I loved the setting, the idea, the costumes, and the acting, but the thought I left the theatre with was, “I bet it’s better on stage.” Given the chance, I would absolutely love to see the live performance, preferably with the same cast (What? A girl can dream!). However, I don’t think I’d be up to rewatching the film again anytime soon.