In Review: Into the Woods

by Daniel Goodwin on 07/01/2015


Where other post-Twilight and Harry Potter fairytale adaptations suppressed spark in favour of an icy emo ambience (Red Riding Hood 2011, Snow White and the Huntsman 2012, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 2013), it is refreshing that Rob Marshall’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s stage production delivers an ideal blend of dark fantasy, sardonic humour and winning Disney heart.

Into The Woods boasts an original central concept woven with classic Grimm fairytales. The story follows a childless baker and his wife (James Cordon and Emily Blunt) cursed by a local witch (Meryl Streep) and forced onto a quest within a dark, haunted forest, to seek out artefacts that will lift the spell and allow them to have children. Upon their journey the couple stumble into fairytale plot strands, encounter classic Grimm characters and learn more about life’s deficiencies as their journey unfolds.

Into The Woods triumphs above recent Grimm adaptations mostly by not taking itself too seriously. The production is lavish and vibrant with enchanted performances from all the main players. Meanwhile, fairytale elements previously presented in other, mostly Disney, films with eloquence and grace are exposed as fanciful delusions within a imperfect not-really-fantasy land which grounds the material with a refreshing, lighthearted realism.

The story flits between fantasy snippets and surreal horror sequences with spirited zest. At times when there are plot lulls in the plot and the songs lack melody, the cast and a majestic production keep things moving, exuding a winning joviality. Streep is wonderful as the bitter and jittery witch while Chris Pine almost steals the show as a dashing but vacuous prince “raised to be charming but not sincere”.

Into The Woods is frequently hilarious but slightly haunted by its novelty concept. Disney embraces an almost self-deprecating humour by digging at its trademark sentimentality, but behind that knowing wink lies a lot of heart and the magical elements that still manage to make its work shine more often than not. Combined with that magic, Into the Woods is a hilarious and sardonic fairytale laced with a biting wit and poignancy. It’s a winning concoction of fantasy, pathos and surprisingly realism; a refreshing cinematic joy for all ages.

Daniel has awarded Into the Woods four Torches of Truth 

4 torches

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