Movie Review: Into The Woods (2014)

Into the Woods is a 2014 American musical fantasy film directed by Rob Marshall, and adapted to the screen by James Lapine from his and Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 Broadway musical of the same name. Produced by Walt Disney Pictures, it was inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales of “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Cinderella”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, and “Rapunzel”, the film is centered on a childless couple who set out to end a curse placed on them by a vengeful witch. Ultimately, the characters are forced to experience the unintended consequences of their actions.

A Baker and his wife wish for a child but suffer under a curse laid upon the Baker’s family by a Witch. The witch had previously found the baker’s father robbing her garden when the baker’s mother was pregnant, demanding their daughter in return. Because the Baker’s father also stole some magic beans, the Witch’s own mother also punished her with the curse of ugliness. The Witch is able to lift the curse and allow them to have a child, but only if the Baker and his wife obtain four critical items for her to make a potion: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, a hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold, none of which she is allowed to touch.

The Witch’s demands eventually bring the Baker and his wife into contact with Jack, who is selling his beloved cow, Milky-White, and to whom the Baker offers magic beans left to him by his father (which were stolen from the Witch) which Jack accidentally grows into a large beanstalk; with Red Riding Hood, whose red cape the couple noticed when she stopped by the bakery earlier to buy bread and sweets on her way to her grandmother’s house; with blonde-haired Rapunzel (the Witch’s adopted daughter/the Baker’s biological sister), whose tower the Baker’s wife passes in the woods; and with Cinderella, who also runs into the Baker’s wife while fleeing from the pursuing Prince and whose ball outfit includes gold slippers.

After a series of failed attempts and misadventures, the Baker and his wife are finally able to gather the items necessary to break the spell. After the potion is completed, each of the characters receives a “happy ending”: Cinderella marries the Prince; Rapunzel is freed from the Witch by Cinderella’s Prince’s brother, whom she marries; Jack provides for his mother by stealing riches from the Giant in the sky, courtesy of the beanstalk, and kills the pursuing Giant by cutting down the beanstalk; Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are saved from the Big Bad Wolf; and the Witch regains her youth and beauty after drinking the potion.

However, each of the characters learn that their endings don’t remain happy: the Baker is worried that he is a poor father to his newborn baby; the Baker’s wife is temporarily seduced by the Prince; Cinderella is disenchanted by her cheating Prince; and the witch learns that she has lost her magic powers in exchange for her youth and beauty, after being rejected by Rapunzel, who then runs off with her Prince. The growth of a second beanstalk from the last remaining magic bean allows the Giant’s widow to climb down and threaten the kingdom and its inhabitants if they do not deliver Jack in retribution for killing her husband. The characters attempt to find Jack, but debate the morality of handing Jack over. In the process, Red Riding Hood’s mother and grandmother, Jack’s mother and the Baker’s wife are killed. The Baker, Cinderella, Jack and Little Red Riding Hood all blame each other for their individual actions that led to the tragedy, ultimately blaming the Witch for growing the beans in the first place. She curses them for their inability to accept responsibility for their individual actions, as well as their refusal to do the “right thing” (handing Jack over). Casting all the remaining beans away, the Witch begs her mother to punish her again, and she melts into a large pit of boiling tar.

The remaining characters resolve to kill the threatening Giant’s widow, though they discuss the complicated morality of retribution and revenge in the process. They lure the Giant’s widow into stepping in the tar pit where she ultimately trips and falls to her death. With the Giant’s widow dead, the characters move forward with their lives as they are. The Baker, thinking of his wife, is determined to be a good father. Cinderella decides to leave the Prince and help the Baker with Jack and Red Riding Hood, as they are now orphans, and will be moving into the bakery. The Baker comforts his son after he begins to cry by telling the story of the film as the movie ends with the Witch’s moral, which means children can change due to the parent’s actions and behaviors.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

So it doesn’t get the full 5 stars because it really felt like it dragged on for 3 hours. I love Into the Woods on Broadway and the soundtrack is amazing but this movie version didn’t capture the magic as well. Johnny Depp just didn’t fulfill the wolf role as much as I liked, he’s an amazing actor but this wasn’t the role for him. Lastly, my 8 year old on the other hand loves to put it on when he’s in a musical mood.

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