HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Into the Woods
HTS Overall Score:92
Have you ever thought about the consequences of fairy tales? Usually we see the heroes do some sort of great deed, or accomplish some feat before gaining their hearts desire and live happily ever after. “Into the Woods” explores the old scientific fact of “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Based off of the Broadway stage play of the same name (and actually written by the same writer of the stage play) we see a mish mash of Grimms fairy tales brought to life in an interconnected whirlwind of excitement. It’s been slightly neutered in terms of impact compared to the stage play, but that seems to have been done in order to keep it a PG rating, since the stage play got real dark real fast. It’s entertaining and keeps very much in line with the original script, but somehow loses some of the visceral impact that I experienced while watching Sondheim’s live version some years ago.
An old and ugly witch (Meryl Streep) offers a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) the chance to actually have a little bun in the oven, so to speak, if only they will acquire 4 items for her that she needs. A cloak as red as blood, a slipper of gold, hair the color of corn and a cow that is milk white. If you’re familiar with your fairy tales you can already see where this is going. Off into the woods the couple goes in search of the items. The red cloak is found in the form of little red riding hood, who really doesn’t want to get rid of the cloak. On her way to grandmother’s house she’s going, but along the way she runs into that famed big bad wolf (Johnny Depp). Soon enough she and grandmother are swallowed up, only to have the baker rescue them. In her thanks, Red offers the cloak to the baker and off he goes. Simultaneously a young boy named Jack (Daniel Huttleston) has been charged by his mother to sell their white cow in order to keep from starving. Meeting up with the Baker and his wife, the dim witted boy trades the cow for a handful of beans (beans actually stolen from the garden of the witch). The other two items obviously come from Rapunzel’s (Mackenzie Mauzy) and Cinderella’s (Anna Kendrick) slipper, which have their own troubles in life.
Being that this is a whole interconnected story the Baker and his wife aren’t the only people in distress. Jack is desperate to get milky white back and uses the magic beans to go up and defeat the giant of legends and bring back gold for his mother and enough to buy back his cow. Cinderella is trying to go to the prince’s ball and nab herself a husband in the form of Prince Charming (Chris Pine). Rapunzel and Prince Charming’s brother find themselves in love, which infuriates the evil witch, and Red Riding hood is still dealing with the issues of being eaten by a wolf. We all know the old “Disney” versions where Rapunzel gets the prince, Cinderella hers, and Jack is rich and wealthy after his deeds, buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut, we’re only half way through the movie and this is where things get dark in hurry. As mentioned above, there’s ALWAYS a consequence to actions, no matter what they are. In this case people start reaping the fruit of their folly. Cinderella has a charming prince, but unfortunately not a very sincere one. The baker and his wife get their child, but the wife is more than a little enamored with Prince Charming, Prince Charming two gets his eyes stabbed out by the witch, and little old Jack now has the giant’s wife chasing him back down the beanstalk to avenge her dead husband. Now the group is in shambles, their lives in disarray and they have to build themselves back up from the ashes once more.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=41098[/img]The Disney fairy tales were always quite different than the very brutal and very dark Grimm tales in the books. So much so that you wouldn’t recognize them if you aren’t already familiar with Grimm. “Into the Woods” is a modern take on those old tales and one that does its best to reconcile the differences with a little tongue firmly planted in cheek. We love to see the heroes save the day, but many of those fairy tales weren’t about being a hero, but rather tales of warning and stories meant to carry morality lessons for people who were living in the dark ages of Germany. The Baker, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and Jack all bring tragedy on themselves due to their own stupidity, greed and avarice, and the results are less than pleasant. The ending is bittersweet, as Lapine writes a tale of hope, but hope that is born of tragedy and experience. The fairy tale heroes that we know and love are put through the wringer and come out stronger, if not scarred heavily, from their trials.
The stage play is a bit more impactful in my personal opinion. This adaptation tries to soften the rating just a tad to keep the PG crowd around. The baker’s wife just engages in a little flirtsy flirtsy with the Prince rather than the more adult experience from the play and even some of the deaths are blotted out a bit and more implied than anything. The beauty of the darker takes is that it more explicitly shows just WHY these people bring it on themselves. The performances are also a bit hit and miss. The great part of the play is that the violent third act only gets better and better as it goes along, but here the last act struggles just a bit. The neutering of the peoples choices is partly to blame, but the characters themselves don’t always sell it. Jacks mom and Rapunzel tend to sleep walk their way through the movie and even Red Riding Hood herself seems to be a tad flat. The Corden as the Baker and Streep as the witch are pure gold though. Streep is a fantastic actress and she puts her all into the film, making the witch both evil and twisted as well as sympathetic and logical. She’s never been a great singer, but they did a good job at coaching her, for the limited songs that she sings are done quite well. Emily Blunt is both flighty and grounded in her approach to the unfaithful/faithful wife, switching between the strong peasant woman and the star struck girl when Prince Charming comes around. Kendrick and Pine were a bit in the middle though. Pine gave it his all, but for some strange reason he seemed to be channeling William Shatner in his portrayal as the charmer. Even at his best he seemed a bit stiff and wooden (and his singing was almost as bad as Pierce Brosnan in “Mama Mia”). Kendrick is one that I usually ADORE, but she was just a bit toooooooo chipper for Cinderella, and it came off as a bit hammy.
Rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=41106[/img]Wowza, Disney really knows how to do their day and date releases that’s for sure. “Into the Woods” looks incredibly with a large amount of effort put into the classic settings. The movie is dark by nature, and the imagery reflects that darker take on the old fairy tales. The woods is creepy and haunting, with the village being no different. Our heroes carry splashes of color on them, but the rest of the cast is shrouded with dark blacks, browns and even the light is almost oppressive when the bad guys are around. Detail is still phenomenal, whether it be in the shadows or the light. In a movie like this you want the black levels to stay strong, and there is no fault to be found with them. Deep and inky the picture still stays rock solid and refuses to be overtaken by crush or washed out pictures. There is a few sequences in the sunlight where I felt they artificially softened the picture, but that seems to be intentional. The movie is artifact free and most certainly going to be used as a demo disc for years to come.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=41114[/img]The 7.1 DTS-HD MA lossless track is just as perfect as the video encode, allowing us to be immersed in a fairy tale world that just sucks you in sonically speaking. The vocals are crisp and clean, just as to be expected, and well balanced with the rest of the track. The surround channels have more than their fair share of use, with the woods creaking and groaning from all directions, or the clopping horse hooves as Prince Charming races after Cinderella. Now, the big appeal of a musical, and probably its most important piece, is by far the music and singing. Thankfully we aren’t let down as the song flow throughout the movie, never becoming too prominent or too soft, filling out the auditory experience beautifully. The LFE channel is used quite frequently and adds quite a punch when needed. Not content to merely augment the musical pieces, it pounds you in the chest with the crash of a blown in door, or the powerful thudding of the giantess’ footsteps. It’s a fantastic track that does the genre justice in way imaginable. A+
• Audio Commentary
• Streep Sings Sondheim: "She'll Be Back"
• There's Something About the Woods
• The Cast as Good as Gold
• Deeper Into the Woods
• Music & Lyrics
“Into the Woods” is a rather faithful adaptation of a modern take on old stories. The movie is blessed by having the same writer of the Broadway play for the screen writing here and some fantastic star power to fill out the cast. There is some issues with the casting and some stumbling’s with the direction, but it doesn’t ruin the movie for me. The audio and video are off the charts and there is a VERY healthy array of extras making this one appealing package for musicals fans. Recommended.
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Chris Pine
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: James Lapine
Aspect Ratio: 2.39 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, Spanish, French DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 125 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 24th 2015
Buy Into the Woods On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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