I want to thank Ben and Sara for taking the kids out to Disney on Ice at the Rogers Centre this past Saturday. It’s been a while that Jen and I spent time together alone and we decided to watch Into the Woods at the Don Mills Cineplex VIP1.
Now, I’ve seen a stage production of Into the Woods at the Stratford Festival back in 2005 with Jennifer and Jason and enjoyed that particular staging. It stayed very true to the original 1987 Broadway production with Bernadette Peters as the Witch and Joanna Gleason as the Baker’s Wife.
The Hollywood transfer of the musical was well done. It enhances some the setting by providing a luscious backdrop for some of the songs (in particular, “Agony” was over the top — total props to Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen for arguably stealing the show). However, I feel that it missed its mark somewhat when compared to the musical.
Ultimately, I think of the original stage production as a meta-fable, where the moral of the story is that there are consequences to your decisions in the real world. That how I saw it at least. I think the film “misses” by underplaying this. It doesn’t give it time for this tenet to gestate. The curse is broken in Act 1 and the Baker’s Wife is magically pregnant–cut to the speech at the castle with the prince and his new wife and begin Act II. There are small, subtle things in the original staging that implies that the characters are not 100% happy. The strain on the Baker and his Wife’s relationship with their new son, him shirking his responsibilities, Cinderella’s unhappiness with royal-life–all things that add a bit more tension. The removal of the Giantess’s exposition, really just made her into a B-Movie monster, whereas in the musical, you get to understand how much she has lost due to Jack’s actions. Agony’s reprisal in the 2nd act underscores Prince Charming’s daliance with the Baker’s Wife and Sleeping Beauty. It makes the emotional betrayal that Cinderella feels even more impactful.
Every decision we make has consequences, both good and bad. We need to grow up and accept responsibility. These themes didn’t carry over as well as they did in the musical vs. the film.
There are few other small things that didn’t transfer well from the theatre to film. Much of the dialogue, especially the pauses, did not transfer over at all in the film. It made some of the more humorous moments just fall flat. There needed to be an audience to play off of.
That said, some of the changes were very well done. Anna Kendrick’s scene on the staircase made way more sense as an internal monologue than it did as a conversation with the Baker’s Wife. Agony was over-the-top (but I wish they had done the reprisal performance because the first was so good!). Billy Magnussen showed amazing comedic physicality. I didn’t miss the elimination Rapunzel’s storyline all that much. Chris Pine showed remarkable range, from charming to smarmy–and he can sing too.
Meryl Streep as the witch did a good turn (especially since she has to go up against the likes of Bernadette Peters, Vanessa Williams, and Donna Murphy). Although I wonder if they should have went with Bernadette Peters, who originated the role.
Overall, I walked out of the theatres with a 7.0/10 rating. After Jen and I had time to dissect it a bit, it’s definitely a 6.5/10 for me.
Rottentomatoes.com seems to agree with me as well.
- For those who don’t know what VIP is, it’s a luxury, adults only, line of cinemas from Cineplex. It’s nice and at a the price premium ($25 a ticket), but you order your food while seated and they bring your order directly to your seats. There is also a lounge area where you can order dinner–so in retrospect, it’s really a 1-stop, movie and dinner experience. ↩