Movie Reviews

Review: 'Into the Woods'

By Zaki JufriMovies - 14 January 2015 5:22 PM | Updated 3:04 AM

Review: 'Into the Woods'

Into The Woods

Our Rating

3/5 Stars

Turning a well-known Broadway hit into a movie can sometimes be an exercise in futility.

It is difficult to translate the complex multi-narrative as well as the expanse of the stage well. Not to mention the intermission; an important device which serves as a cliffhanger or to emphasise a point prior to the second act. 

Who could forget misses such as ‘Rock of Ages’ (2012) and the cringe-worthy ‘Phantom of the Opera’ (2004) with Gerard Butler as the masked spectre? 

Of course, there were hits: ‘Chicago (2002), ‘Les Miserable’ (2012), Clint Eastwood’s ‘Jersey Boys’ (2014) and ‘Mamma Mia’ (2008), which we think is better than the stage version.

‘Into the Woods’, musical impresario Stephen Sondheim’s multi-awarded 1987 musical, shows us how wishes can come true. At a cost, of course.


Meryl Streep plays a witch in 'Into the Woods' | Photo: Disney

What makes Sondheim’s original so highly regarded is that it subverts and perverts the original Grimm fairytales so often heard and read during childhood.

‘Into the Woods’ is not the typical “happy ever after” story Disney produces, but it is one filled with sexual innuendo, violence and existential angst.

“Be careful what you wished for,” says the film’s tagline, probably hearing the musical’s fans’ desires to see a movie adaption of their beloved work. 

Thankfully, a fairy godfather comes in the form of director Rob Marshall who marshalled (pun intended) a cast of fairytale all-star cast into the woods to conjure up a satisfying film.


Oops. Wrong movie. 

Grammy and Tony Award nominee Anna Kendrick is Cinderella | Photo: Disney

Meryl Streep heads this spry adaptation as The Witch, whose curse plays at the centre of the tale.

Spellbound to be barren is Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt); the Witch sends them off on a quest as they try to lift the curse.

This leads the pair to meet Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), her Prince Charming (Chris Pine), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), The Wolf (Johnny Depp), and Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), who all wish for something of their own.

As their stories converge, each character's wish comes at a terrible cost. For fans of the Sondheim staging, the original’s subversive and mature content is lost in translation on the big screen. But all the better for you to take the children to watch, my dear! 


No stranger to playing wicked characters after her surprising turn in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, Streep, who is wonderful here, gives us a richer performance than in th eother musical in which she starred, ‘Mamma Mia’. 

‘Stay with Me’ – Meryl Streep 

Streep ably pulls off some of the musical’s best songs, from the heart-rending and darkly beautiful ‘Stay with Me’ to her character's furious swansong ‘Last Midnight’.

However, the ever-reliable Blunt who was recently nominated for a Golden Globe best actress award for her role here, upstages Streep.

Blunt gives an earnest turn as Baker’s wife who, with her husband, shoulder most of the storytelling in the movie. 

Who knew that the British actress could carry a tune? After an encounter with the amorous Prince, Blunt rises to the challenge with ‘Moments in the Woods’, a tender-hearted song filled with sexual fraught.

Kendrick is certainly right at home as Cinderella. She is pitch perfect (yes, another pun!) and never misses a beat.

Her Cinderella is not the doe-eyed damsel in distress but a rather aloof and independent young woman, never mind if royalty is knocking on her door. 

The multi-talented actress and new "Queen of Musicals" shows off her vocal chops on ‘On the Steps of the Palace’ and ‘No One is Alone’.

Clearly, ‘Into the Woods’ belongs to the female cast members. As for the men, they just look pretty and ham up for the screen.

Upcoming ladies’ man Chris Pine fits the role of the lecherous and not-so-charming prince like a glove, as does Johnny Depp in his brief turn as the equally lecherous wolf and even Billy Magnussen who plays another prince who has eyes for Rapunzel.

'Agony’ – Chris Pine, Billy Magnussen

Pine’s sprightly duet with Magnussen on ‘Agony’ is another highlight of the film; both princes declaring love and anguish over the women they, um, pine for, atop a waterfall.

If mirth and tomfoolery is what you’re looking for for your movie break, then make ‘Into the Woods’ your pick. Fantastic performances abound with songs so catchy, you will be humming them even after.

Marshall, with the help of Hollywood, effectively make the fairytale magic seem real in a way that is not possible on stage.

The lack of Sondheim’s darker tones is sorely missed, but the movie is nonetheless a competent adaptation. 

Like ‘Maleficent’ and ‘Frozen’, ‘Into the Woods’ follows the continuing trend of the House of Mouse subverting the conventions it created.

‘Into the Woods’ opens 15 February 2015 

Movie Photos

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Into The Woods
  • Into The Woods

  • Rated
    PG /
    Fantasy, Musical
  • Language
  • (5 Reviews)