I watched Into the Woods a little while ago and have been meaning to review it ever since. Problem is, every time I go to start, I get that song stuck in my head! It’s almost annoyingly catchy.
Disney did a decent job of adapting a very adult musical into a movie for older children and adults to enjoy together. The first half was excellent, catchy, fast-paced and Johnny Depp did a credible job as the Wolf. I wasn’t thrilled with his appointment to the role, but it worked out in the end.
Where the trouble started, was the second act, which fell to pieces. This is an example of watering down great content to fit the length of a film, and most pointedly, to pacify all the parents bringing young kids to a movie that was never written for a PG audience.
From themes of pedophilia between the Wolf and Red, to cheating between spouses to murder, it would have been better for Disney to keep true to the musical and slap at 14A rating on that film. Instead, it tried to make a PG version that would appeal to everyone and it didn’t quite work, despite the many accomplishments of the actors.
While I did enjoy Into the Woods, I noticed a lot of reviews online and social media, mainly from fans of the original musical who resented the adaptations in the second half (I concur), and parents of young kids who didn’t realize that this particular Disney movie was based on the darker Grimms’ fairy-tales, rather than the G-rated Disney version. To the latter, I say do your research. Maybe the trailer should have been a little darker, to convey that message more clearly, but I had never heard of the musical before the film came out and I knew it wasn’t meant for young children. I wouldn’t take a child to something either, if I had no idea what it was about. Disney has been moving away from the old school G-rated family films that it was synonymous with in the past. Those are still their bread and butter, but Disney owns and produces the Lucasfilms (Star Wars) and Marvel productions too, which are clearly marketed towards adults, even if their ratings are not child-averse.
As to the failures of the adaptation, well, that is always hit and miss. One of the most common sayings in the movie business, is that, the movie is never as good as the book. Well, in this case, we would have to change that to the movie is never as good as the musical.
The weakest points in the film were due to Disney making the film more child-friendly. I didn’t like the portrayal of the witch (I’m shocked to say) or the changes to her story-line. In particular, re-writing Rapunzel’s ending, from a tragic death to a happily ever after with her Prince, effectively destroyed the entire meaning behind the story and necessitated the removal or alterations of several songs, which no longer made sense. Rapunzel and Prince disappear from the rest of the movie, as does Jack’s mother, because God forbid we see someone die on-screen. The Baker’s Wife also falls behind a rock, insinuating she fell off a cliff. I would have much preferred an Alice-style fall a la The Last of the Mohicans.
Up until the wedding scene, I was giving the film five golden stars. Unfortunately, from that point on the movie lacked focus, meaning and depth, dropping it down to three and a half. A good effort, and enjoyable … but still, I wish Disney had had more conviction to make a twenty-first century fairy-tale for grown-ups
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