Meryl Streep plays the witch in the Disney musical Into the Woods.

Meryl Streep plays the witch in the Disney musical Into the Woods.

Reel Reviews: Into the Woods is a musical, folks

It’s unclear for whom stage musical-turned-film musical Into the Woods was made - adults or kids.

  • Jan. 2, 2015 10:00 a.m.

A witch (Meryl Streep) sends a childless baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) into the woods to find the magic ingredients to reverse the spell that she herself put on the Baker’s house, long ago.

The items on that list include: a hooded cape as red as blood, a lock of hair as yellow as corn, a slipper as pure as gold, and a cow as white as snow (the kind you trade for magic beans).

In a musical mix-up of classic tales, the Baker and his wife discover life is not a storybook.

We say, “It’s unclear for whom this film was made.”

TAYLOR: Into the Woods was a musical written for the stage by James Lapine, featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd), and premiered in 1986. It was much as the film is, except a bit raunchier and more suggestive. The film has been watered down to get a PG rating, in the hopes that you might take your kids to the film. However, your kids are probably going to wonder why the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp) is so lecherous and creepy. Kids might be curious about why the Prince is cheating on Cinderella.

“I was raised to be charming, not sincere,” he says.

They’re also going to wonder who the good guys and bad guys are, because ultimately, that is what this story is about. We’re all good, we’re all bad, we do what we can to live a happy life and so do our enemies. They’re no different than us.  Life is not a fairy tale. All of the story aspects of the film, I quite enjoyed, still I couldn’t wait for this movie to be over.

HOWE: I love musicals: Phantom, Grease, Les Mis, etc. Yet, while I was watching this, I too was thinking that I couldn’t wait till it was over and even when I got home, I told my wife it was terrible. But now thinking about it, I think I understand what Disney was getting at. There are life lessons to learn here such as don’t trust perverted strangers dressed up liked wolves offering candy to kids, or if you commit adultery, karma’s going to bite you in the arse sooner or later.

As for the musical score, it wasn’t that catchy. I didn’t come out of the theatre whistling any tunes. I did enjoy the duet of the two princes.

TAYLOR: Everybody got a kick out of the two melodramatic princes, singing their agony over not finding true love in a musical duel. Well, everyone except myself.

I think it’s unfair to not let poor ignorant movie reviewers know that they are going to a musical. The trailer for Into the Woods does not give any indication of this and I simply was unaware that it was formerly a staged musical. However, even in an attempt to be objective about the film left me wanting. Why can’t they hire singers for these films? I’d much rather watch Beyonce try to act than Meryl Streep try to sing. The only thing I found interesting about the film was its message, which isn’t going to get to kids, because kids aren’t going. I watched this film in a theatre full of senior citizens.

HOWE: If you want a movie that feels like a pantomime Into the Woods is the way to go, but if you want a kids’ movie that they would enjoy, Penguins of Madagascar is still playing.

– Taylor gives Into The Woods 2 limited ranges out of 5.

– Howe gives it 2.5 baked treats out of 5.

Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are film reviewers based in Vernon, B.C. Their column, Reel Reviews, appears in The Morning Star Friday and Sunday.