I confess that I binge listened to the soundtrack before seeing this film and was thoroughly impressed with the vocals. It got me excited going to the screening. I also admit that I am a fan of the Broadway musical. I've seen the play this film is based on starring Bernadette Peters, Vanessa Williams and Phylicia Rashad. All three have played the witch. I have watched Johanna Gleeson light up the stage with energy, charm and humor. I noticed every change, subtraction and addition in the cinematic adaptation and I must say, this film is a triumph. It has wit, humor, emotion, magic and music - all the makings of a great musical.
The first fifteen minutes, the prologue, is edited with such vivacity and rhythm that you are immediately engulfed into the stories and the action. Then, Director Rob Marshall slowly starts to focus on the rhythms and details of each individual story. From the Baker and his wife, to Little Red Riding Hood, to Jack, to the Witch and Cinderella. All their stories are told with the same passion and intent as the others, each with their individual flair. Yet somehow Marshall is able to have each story fit perfectly into the grand puzzle that is Into the Woods.
I could rave on and on about Sondheim's score. His scores always have a sort of, inside joke sound to them. It's as if Sondheim knows something we don't know when he composes. There is an obvious humor and wit in Sondheim's score of Into the Woods, but it is the lyrics that tell the story. James Lapine, who wrote the screenplay and the libretto for the Broadway musical, makes some interesting changes for the film version. Fans of the musical will recognize the changes immediately and they may or may not like them. I personally liked them. For those who've never seen or even heard the Broadway version, this film will entertain and even touch them.
Meryl Streep, is the best Witch I've seen. The finest actress of all-time gives The Witch a portrayal big enough to fit Rob Marshall's theatrical style, but is subtle enough for us to understand her. Her solo Stay With Me is one of the best scenes in the whole movie and one of the best acted scenes this year. But, it is the show-stopping number of Last Midnight that will leave a lasting impression on you. I haven't been able to stop listening to it since I saw it. I was in jaw-dropping awe in the theater watching that number. It's because Meryl Streep doesn't just sing a song (she has a beautiful voice and can surprisingly belt very well), she acts it. She feels each word and doesn't waste them. She's able to find the subtext in every song, every line of dialogue, every lyric. She will definitely be a presence this awards season and rightfully so.
Speaking of showstoppers, I must mention the funniest duet in any musical from any time, Agony. Sung by Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen, who play Cinderella and Rapunzel's princes respectively, the number is beautifully staged and timed hilariously. Everyone in my theater roared with laughter and I was apart of it. That may actually be the best musical number in the whole movie.
I'd also like to point out James Corden, who really surprised me. I knew he'd do the comedic portrayal of The Baker well, but it is the dramatic parts that had me apprehensive. He killed them. His chemistry with Emily Blunt is very believable. They work well together and they both have fantastic voices as well.
I think Blunt is one of the most underrated actresses today and I'm confident this film will put her on the map. She is a grand talent. The million dollar question fans of the musical may have, "Does she live up to Johanna Gleeson?" My answer is, I don't know. They approach The Baker's Wife differently. Their choices completely differ and therefore they cannot be compared.
The last standout I want to mention is young Lilla Crawford, who some may know as Annie in the 2012 Broadway revival. She has impeccable timing and a great voice. It is a great feature film debut for the young star.
The ensemble overall is fantastic and work extremely well together. Of course the costume and production design are top notch, but I don't think anyone expected anything less. Rob Marshall and company have made the best American movie musical in over ten years. Ironically enough, Rob Marshall's Into the Woods is the best musical since Rob Marshall's Chicago. I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18.
Reviewed by KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie Jones, age 15.
Into The Woods is a brilliant new film adapted from the award-winning Broadway musical. This lively tale tells the story of some of the most well-known Grimm's Brother fairy tales, but with an unexpected twist. In the film we see the stories The Baker and his Wife, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. All of their lives intertwine and it makes for a wild journey full of song, humor, heartbreak and wonderful lessons.
Into The Woods is a must-see this season and I am so pleased with how it turned out. Being a theater junky, I heard news that this musical was going to be made into a film and the anticipation began to grow. The execution of this film is flawless. It captures the feel of seeing a musical live, with the over-the-top theatrics and set design. It translates so well to the screen and allows the audience to fully immerse themselves into this incredible story. The costumes and locations for this film are beautiful and the music is excellent. I caught myself singing along with the movie more than once.
Something that I love about this film is that it isn't the "classic" Disney version of these fairytales that most of us grew up with. It goes back to the authentic stories from the Grimm Brothers themselves, with the obvious twist here and there. In this film, the bad stuff that tends to be cut out of modern fairytales actually happens. For example, Cinderella's step-sisters cut off bits of their feet to fit into the golden slipper, Rapunzel's prince is blinded by blackberry thorns and there are no fairy godmothers. Rest assured, all of these misfortunes are done in very humorous ways. I also love that it takes all of these different fables and weaves them together so that everyone has a part in each others' story. The final thing that really makes Into The Woods stand apart from other fairy tales is that not everyone gets a happy ending. You have to work with what you're given and make the best of the situation.
The entire cast is wonderful and so talented. Meryl Streep plays The Witch, Anna Kendrick - Cinderella, Emily Blunt - The Baker's Wife, Johnny Depp - The Wolf, Chris Pine - Cinderella's Prince. Every character has a solo and I'm so impressed with all of these actors' amazing voices. I had no idea they could sing. This film brings in names and faces that are very recognizable and also incorporates actors that most of us have probably never seen. So, it's a really nice mix of people that make up this cast.
My favorite scene is when the two Princes sing Agony. It is the most hilarious scene in the film and I laughed so hard I cried. Prince Charming and his brother are lamenting over their princesses, Cinderella and Rapunzel, and it is the cheesiest, funniest thing I have seen in a long time. The Princes are the most melodramatic people, making everything a big deal and this song highlights just how over-the-top they are. The entire audience was cracking up and after the film was over I could not stop singing Agony and laughing about how ridiculous the music number is.
Into The Woods is a film that all ages will enjoy. I cannot wait to see it again. Every aspect of it is so well done - the cast, the visuals, the music and even though a few moments could maybe be a bit scary for younger children, it is something for the whole family. I recommend it for ages 5 to 18 and give this film 5 out of 5 stars. Be sure not to miss Into The Woods. It opens in theaters everywhere on Christmas Day! Reviewed by Raven Devanney, KIDS FIRST! Critic, age 16.
Into the Woods is a musical comedy about a journey a baker and his wife must take in order to reverse the curse The Witch put on their house and have the child they always wanted. They must go into the woods and get four things - a slipper as pure as gold, hair as yellow as corn, cape as red as blood and a cow as white as snow - all before the blue moon rises. The most interesting thing about this film is how the screenwriter, James Lapine merges the stories of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood into this brand new fairytale.
Cinematographer Dion Beebe has created incredible fairytale-like scenes that are just outstanding. I loved the scene when Cinderella goes to her mother's grave and tells her that she wishes to go to the ball. All of the sudden, the tree and the leaves twirl her around to dress her in a beautiful golden dress and slippers. It's fascinating how the camera moves around her to make the scene magical.
Of course, music plays a huge role in the film thanks to the brilliant work of Stephen Sondheim who has written perfect lyrics that capture the emotions of every scene. Meryl Streep's character, The Witch, is the most memorable character. Her voice is powerful and beautiful. When she discovers that Rapunzel has fallen in love with a prince, she begs Rapunzel to stay with her. When The Witch sings "Stay with Me," you realize that she isn't as cold- hearted as everyone thinks. She locks Rapunzel in a tower because she is protecting her from the world.
The message of the film is that you should be careful of what you wish for. Sometimes what you wish for isn't exactly what you really want. A secondary message is when you love something you should set it free. I recommend this film for ages 10 to 18 and give it four out five stars. Into the Woods comes out on Christmas Day to a theater near you! Reviewed by Shelby Ronae, KIDS FIRST! Critics, age 14