3 STARS – Enchanting
Into the Woods brings Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical to the screen. Rarely does a film adaptation of a great stage show ever live up to the magic of the theater, however this may be one of those rare opportunities where cinema trumps Broadway! Into the Woods is a remarkably satisfying story that will reignite any adult’s heart for the classic children’s stories of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.
This is one of those musicals that you either love or hate. These are not tunes to hum, nor are the songs going to be sung by every child that wants to belt out “Let It Go” from Frozen. On the other hand, lovers of grand theater have always adored Sondheim and this magical story tying together Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel where they face a wicked witch marvelously played by Meryl Streep, is deliciously brought to the screen by Rob Marshall in a way that will make you smile for two hours and wish for more. Johnny Depp as the big bad wolf chasing after little red riding hood is worth the price of admission alone!
There is nothing new to tell about these fairy tales that you don’t already know. It is the cleverness of how they are all tied together that gives this Sondheim musical something that is captivating.
People sometimes ask how it is that violent tales appeal to children, or are dismissed as harmless bedtime stories? This does take place in the scary dark woods after all and small children might be frightened by what lurks in the shadows of the trees. It is probably good to remember that these were written in a different time and the kinds of fears that children face today being very different than two centuries ago. On the other hand, today the amount of violence that the average child sees on television in the first ten years of their life contains more murders than most people ever heard of in their entire lifetime in times past.
What distinguishes the value of a Grimm fairy tale is the same as a Disney film today – good always triumphs over evil – and in both worlds of story-telling they all live happily ever after.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
- The Grimm brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm wrote their tales in the early part of the 1800’s. That makes these tales exactly 200 years old. How do you think the brothers would have changed their settings and characters if they had been writing today? How would they be the same?
- When we think of people going through great trial and then being able to “live happily ever after” we recognize that this is the longing of every human. How have you found this to be true or not true in your own life?
- If you have seen both the stage play and the film, which would you say best portrays the story? Why do you answer as you do?