So often adaptations of musicals to the silver screen are vastly inferior to the original, not so with Disney's Into the Woods.
Into the Woods intertwines several well known characters and stories from the Grimm’s fairy tales with the original tale of a childless baker and his wife.
Within Into the Woods are notable characters from Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Jack and the Beanstalk. As with any fairy tale there is an “evil” witch who “manipulates” desperate innocents to do her bidding. In this case it is a baker and his wife whose lives are cursed, unbeknownst to them, that is preventing them from having a child. So, to reverse the curse they must seek out the items the witch needs to make a potion: cow as white as milk, cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, slipper as pure as gold before the chime of midnight in three days time. All main characters venture off into the woods and it is there that their stories converge.
Disney smartly decides to have the Tony award winning stage playwright and creator of Into the Woods, James Lapine, to write the screenplay for the film. This decision certainly contributes significantly to the successfulness of the movie as a musical adaptation. The music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim remain intact and are pivotal to the plot progression, seamlessly blending and transitioning within the tale.
Note: this film is an adaptation of a Broadway Musical so the movie will be rife with singing. You may be thinking, “But silly Archon Cinema Reviews! It’s a musical…of course it will feature song and dance!” Apparently I have acquaintances that were unaware of this fact and their only complaint for Into the Woods was: too. much. music. (insert facepalm here) In terms of instrumental moments representing a percentage of the film, Into the Woods is on the upper tier of the spectrum.
As with the musical it is during the second act that Into the Woods departs substantially from the known plots of the aforementioned fairy tales. Into the Woods allows itself to take a darker and more sinister tone as with the original Grimm stories. It seems as though something gets lost in translation from the stage to the silver screen. With Disney at the helm, some of the truly wicked plot points get moved off screen and are barely implied so the plot gets muddled toward the end.
Overall, Into the Woods is one of the more successful musical adaptations. Disney chooses to get actors and actresses that are well known and have vocal capability. Further, director Rob Marshall captures the same fantasy of the production with minimal CGI, enhancing the imaginative experience.
Into the Woods – Review