If you go down Into The Woods today you may find out that life is made up of agony and ecstasy moments, although you will only ever find them in your heart.
If you’re a guy, well then you will find plenty of gorgeous women lurking about in the woods, although there is one giant ugly one you may like to try and avoid.
She’s recently climbed down a bountiful beanstalk to wreak havoc on all below.
If you’re a girl you will find a handsome prince roaming about, well two in fact, one on a white horse, one on a black horse, both of whom are in ‘agony’ over their feelings for two beautiful young women they desire.
One is a girl who mucks around in cinders below stairs, and the other lives in a turret like tower – yes, well, upstairs.
The girl from downstairs has golden slippers and a pretty dress that she only puts on after dark.
She’s all at sea and not sure what it is she wants in life until she hears that her stepmother and sisters have been invited to a three day festival-taking place in the Prince’s palace.
She then invades the local castle and after dancing a waltz or two with the aforesaid ‘charming’ Prince, leads her prospective liege lord on a merry kind of chase.
Out of the castle, down the stairs and yes, you’ve guessed it, back Into The Woods.
This happens three nights in a row and by then he is feeling a bit over it all.
Mixing the dynamics of the often dark and always thrilling fairytales from the Brother’s Grimm I grew up on with the tradition of theatre, musicals and modernity of film making, the recent Disney film Into The Woods is a triumph of entertainment, featuring an outstanding ensemble cast.
Based on the 1986 hit Tony Award winning stage musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, this interesting and captivating film has been cleverly adapted for the screen by them both, directed with elan by Rob Marshall,
The story is a compilation of tales that concentrates on curses, quests and wishes of its characters, with an enviable casting, including the magical Meryl Streep as The Witch, Emily Blunt as a very fetching baker’s wife, James Corden as a less than dull local Baker, Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood complete with red cape, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Mackenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel, Billy Magnussen as the ‘Other” Prince and Mr Cool himself Chris Pine as Prince Charming.
In short, I loved it – smart, clever, witty and wonderful kids story for adults.
The musical won several Tony awards at the time it appeared on stage and now the movie is up for contention in the 2015 Academy awards.
Into The Woods has received well-deserved nominations in three categories, including production design, costume design and Meryl Streep has been nominated for best supporting actress.
The action takes place around the Wicked Witch who gives the village baker and his wife a quest to go on into the woods and fetch four objects by midnight in three days time.
If they do it will help release her from a spell and lift the curse placed on the baker’s family that for the moment is ensuring his wife remains childless.
As they face the tasks and challenges that take place in the woods, they all meet the array of characters whose story is essential to their own and complete their journey of self-discovery.
Each have their own agendas, desires and wishes and it takes a while to sort them all out, with plenty of humorous moments, a few romantic ones, many thought provoking scenes, some with gloomy undertones, as well as some dastardly deeds done, especially by that Wolf.
Johnny Depp is The Big Bad Wolf and his transformation into a very credible and creepy wolf while prancing about and perfectly posing on a rock to howl at the moon is marvelously staged.
All is finally resolved although perhaps not as you would imagine it might.
The costumes are all stunning, designed for a fairytale, the attention to detail very noticeable.
The settings are also superbly imagined and interestingly and perhaps unexpectedly, the cast better known for their acting abilities all have great voices and not only sing quite well, but also in tune and on pitch… that vocal coach worked wonders.
Anna Kendrick is a powerful Red Riding Hood, goodness she has such a magnetic presence and powerful singing voice she commands her scenes.
Daniel Huttlestone, who was so brilliant and acclaimed as Gavroche in Les Miserables, is Jack of the magic bean and climbing the beanstalk fame.
He has just the right swagger, a great voice and an ability to perform with wisdom that still seems way beyond his years. He was a defining character and worked well with Tracey Ullman who plays Jack’s mother convincingly.
Rapunzel is the girl with the golden hair.
She has grown it so long that she can let it down so assorted people with the right password, as well as a blonde-haired blue eyed handsome prince can climb up to visit her on demand; Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!
The very lovely Mackenzie Mauzy is Rapunzel and Billy Magnussen her suitably handsome, dashing, eager, completely faithful ‘other’ Prince. He rescues her from a hard life and she rescues him right back.
Loved that Christine Baranski was Cinderella’s stylish stepmother. She was just great with Meryl in Mamma Mia, and she is in this too.
The twist for her is in helping Tammy Blanchard and Lucy Punch as her step daughters Florinda and Lucinda, fit into the golden shoes, perhaps a little more violently than as the tales really tell it.
The three ‘black dresses’ they wear to the ball are just too divine, definitely dresses every girl today would like to wear. Fashion statements all.
The ‘Agony’ scene sung by the two Princes was probably my favourite in the whole show. It was quirky, witty and quite wonderful.
The boys are clad in glamorous garments baring their considerably handsome chests, while sliding around on the slippery wet rocks of a waterfall on their knees.
They proclaim they are in agony, earnestly seeking love and are both a delight to behold and listen to.
Chris Pine is perhaps the biggest surprise, his singing was excellent and his sense of comic timing spot on.
Amusingly one comment I read declared,
‘…so Kirk can sing, well it only makes him more attractive’!
Indeed it does and he certainly brought ‘levity’ to what could have been a dark tale, if it wasn’t already so amazing and interesting.
He is masterly as Prince Charming, playing his deeply shallow narcissistic storybook character with just the right touch.
The twist being where he seizes the moment and a chance meeting with the baker’s wife in the wood and asks her ‘may I kiss you’, thus cheating on Cinders and her on the Baker!
‘I was raised to be charming; not sincere’ he comments drily tongue in cheek as Emily Blunt suitably swoons in his arms with just the prospect of kissing him! Let alone doing it… rrrrrr
The Baker played convincingly by James Corden is kindly, gentle, doing his best to be brave while singing up a storm.
Emily Blunt plays her character the baker’s wife with great pathos; being pregnant at the time and playing a childless woman must have been a defining experience.
Any woman watching would have envied her kissing this ‘prince’… big decision!
Hey, it’s a modern story after all!
There’s some tough moments until those who are left alive in the woods find out that unless they support each other and work together they will suffer moments of misfortune until they can and make everything come right in the end.
Be careful what you wish for…
… help reverse the curse!
Into The Woods – pure pleasure and joy, 4.5 out of 5
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Watch the Trailer