Posting has been a bit slow, and i’ll admit it has to do with a lack of things to write about. There are some things in the oven surely but when i sit down i have to force myself to write the words and i don’t find that i like the results of that.
However i have been on vacation with my squeeze and there have been a couple of movies that i’ve watched that made me want to get to a keyboard.
One of them is this very movie!
In true Shrek fashion a group of fairy tale heroes all journey into the woods for this musical adventure.
The movie looks great at times, with lighting and SFX combining at times to create some memorable images. Like Johnny Depp’s wolf howling to the sky, or Jack’s piece about the giants, or the forest setting in general.
Also the musical numbers are woven into the plot, used to either describe situations, or used to advance plot. They are also free from overt theatricality being mostly extended conversations or monologues that characters have between themselves or others, which makes them far easier to digest for someone who dislikes musicals (me being one of them).
The movie really started falling apart when Johnny Depp (because of course he’s in this movie), performed his musical number and i got the feeling that the production really should have spent some more money on his make up, as his painted on whiskers and goofy hand prosthetics had him come off as some child molester who only went by the name of “The Big Bad Wolf” than some fantastical forest creature.
The whole affair was really uncomfortable, and leads me to ask an honest question:
Who is Into the Woods for?
Because it really isn’t for kids (or at least young kids), as along with creepy zany characters lurking in the woods you have “charming” sex crazed prince going around seducing women after he was just married, delivering rapey lines like: “… I was raised to be charming, not sincere…”
It also has Cinderella’s step mother mutilating her daughters to fit into a pair of shoes, only after having a swarm of birds peck their eyes out for Cinderella’s vengeance (which is more implied to be fair). Important people die off-screen leading to great confusion, as Jack’s mother dies and it’s only brought up later at a really inconvenient moment, the baker’s wife also dies and has the baker finding out only after he sees that Jack looted her (likely) mangled body for a ratty scarf. Lastly Meryl Streep’s witch commits sudden (apparent) suicide, that comes almost out of the blue.
All of this combines to create a very dissonant tone that’s at odds with the film’s attempts at a cheery fairy tale atmosphere (perhaps this was the point? If it was then bravo it succeeded in bewildering me).
The movie is absolutely over long at 2 hours (1/2 hour could have easily have been slashed), with lightning fast pacing through the first leaving the last half sagging, exasperating a serious narrative issue with the movie wherein there is no strong central moral or theme tying the stories together. Which is bizarre considering all of the fairy tales contained within “Into the Woods” all push a simple moral at their core.
Why does the witch commit suicide? Why does the baker’s wife die? And why does this all lead to the creation of some demented new family out of a bunch of fairy tale rejects?
All of these events would be easily explainable if they surrounded a simple moral. As the final impression i take away from the film is that it’s important to work together, but that’s muddled up with the baker having to face his fears and his past taking a large part of the plotting (leading to a couple of out of the blue ghostly visitations), while no one else is afraid of going into the woods while also being given equal screen time to bumble around.
Into the Woods isn’t a disaster, however it’s overlong, confused, tone-deaf, and bizarre. There’s some fun to be had either ironically or sincerely, however without a strong narrative moral driving the events the story presented here ultimately has no point.
Watch if you like the people involved in the production, like musicals, or if you happen to like re-imagined fairy tales. You might find something more than i could.
OUT OF FIVE