Disclosure: I received passes to an advanced screening. No compensation was received and I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.
I hate movie musicals. There, I said it.
Really, though. They're typically terrible, featuring star-studded casts that aren't up to par with their Broadway counterparts and changes to the story and songs that are at best, unnecessary - and at worst, utterly ridiculous and revolting.
I'm a purist when it comes to most Broadway shows. There's a certain level of magic achieved from seeing a live performance that just can't be replicated on a screen. So, I went into the early screening of Into the Woods with a heavy heart, hoping for better - but expecting the worst. I played Cinderella (Anna Kendrick's character) in a stage version of this show several years ago, so I know the show inside and out! I was quite afraid the movie would be a big disappointment.
Imagine my surprise when the music started to play and the entire fourteen+ minute opening song was left surprisingly intact, accompanied by lovely sets and costumes. I settled in for what suddenly looked like it might be a much more enjoyable experience than I had anticipated!
Into the Woods is a mash-up of many fairy-tale stories; primarily Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel. We're introduced to a Baker and his Wife right off the bat as they play a significant part as these stories are woven together. The opening of the movie introduces the characters as they each declare what they wish more than anything in the world. The rest of the story is spent showing us how their wishes do or don't come true - and the consequences that occur as a result.
I felt the movie was cast well. The two characters that had the strongest Broadway feel were Lilla Crawford (Little Red Riding Hood) and Daniel Huttlestone (Jack) - surprisingly, the two youngest cast members.
The movie is just star-studded enough (Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt) to draw in a crowd, but maintains enough anonymity in the other, perhaps lesser-known, casting decisions to enchant the audience without making our expectations unrealistically high. The standout song of the film is Agony, performed by Chris Pine (Cinderella's Prince) and Billy Magnussen (Rapunzel's Prince) - it quite literally made me laugh until I had tears rolling down my face, and was applauded by the audience in attendance.
This movie is a visually stunning piece, featuring special effects that are magical, but not overwhelming. While there were changes made from the original stage version and even characters omitted, the differences overall did not affect the tone of the original - which leads me to believe that much thought was put into preserving the integrity of the script. When adapting something from stage to screen, cuts have to be made for the sake of time - and almost always in this film, where a song was cut, it was still used in the musical score in the right sequence. It felt like a nod to those of us in the audience who were waiting to see if specific pieces would be included - "We didn't quite have time for this song, but we love it just as you do."
Are all of the actors able to sing with Broadway's standard? No. But in this rare instance, I feel pretty forgiving. This movie has done a remarkable job of bringing to life the deepest parts of each character, and I have no doubt that there will be a wide increase in the number of productions of this musical throughout schools, community theatres, and even on professional stages - all thanks to the much wider reach a movie can bring. And anything that can bring more awareness to the beauty of live theatre is a winner in my book.
Have you seen Into the Woods yet? What did you think?
Disclosure: I received passes to an advanced screening. No
compensation was received and I was not required to write a positive
review. All opinions expressed are my own.