Into the Woods (2014)

This film is a modern classic, and I refuse to think otherwise.

Yes, they may have made some changes in adapting it for the screen, but since when was a text truly sacred? If you look at this film on its own, it’s a marvel.

Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), Into the Woods is about a world where all the fairy tale characters are real. The Baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt) are trying to have a child, but can’t because a witch (Meryl Streep) placed a curse on his father. She offers to reverse the curse, but only if they gather the ingredients, and that begins the story. Along the way, they interact with Jack (and the Beanstalk), Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick from Pitch Perfect) and others. They get their happily ever afters, at least until a giant wants retribution…

Into the Woods was written for the stage by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, and so it has many darker themes, a defined two-act structure, and wickedly clever lyrics. What Marshall did was give the film an unmistakeably cinematic feel, making excellent use of the book and lyrics while crafting an atmosphere that is both marvelous and frightening. Oh, and he gathered a real dream cast, including the names mentioned above and the likes of Chris Pine, Christine Baranski, Tracey Ullman, and others. All these stars might be the best part of the film, and the reason I find it so pleasing to watch—and hear.

I really like the stage version, without question. But I think I might like the adaptation more. There is a real sense of magic here, conjured perhaps by Dion Beebe’s lush, murky cinematography. It just seems like it was made to be a film—so that the full potential of the setting could be realized, and the story could be told this one way forever. Meryl Streep is my definitive Witch.

Once upon a time, Disney made a movie out of a dark, fairly sexy Sondheim musical, one which did not gloss over the Grimm aspects of fairy tales (couldn’t resist). Thankfully, the result was a nearly perfect motion picture, one that I hope will last as long as its many source materials. One that I wish.

3.5 Green

Into the Woods is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.

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