Movie Review: Into The Woods
Into The Woods is a remarkably incoherent mess of a film that fails on just about every level.
The “story” is an extraordinarily flimsy excuse to get a variety of notable fairy tale characters in one film. A baker and his wife must find four items for a witch in order to remove a curse that prevents them from having a child, and those four items they need just luckily happen to all be the iconic items of four fairy tale characters. Video games from 1997 are more creative about their plot devices. At one point in the film, a joke is made of the arbitrary nature of the plot device, but a film referencing that it has done something lazy doesn’t undo the laziness just as a guy that mugs you and says “this is totally shitty of me” doesn’t change the fact that you’ve just been mugged.
The labored set up to combine these famous stories wouldn’t be a big problem if the film seemed to care at all about any of the fairy tales, but it seems bored with them. The most exciting element of every single fairy tale happens off screen. Heroes slay monsters, romances blossom, and treasures get discovered, but we don’t get to see any of it happen. It almost feels like a writer had a creative writing assignment to include many fairy tales in one story and he’s rushing to mark them off of checklist. In Sondheim’s musical, the limitations of a stage show probably necessitated that some tales would get the short shrift, but in the film it feels lazy and uncreative.
By the end of the rambling, any semblance of a story is thrown out the window as the undeveloped characters all do things that they have no motivation to do and events occur out of left field for no reason other than that they need to in order to propel the plot. A couple of characters die for seemingly no reason in increasingly lazy ways (and again off screen). We also get treated to a couple of confused moral songs and dialogue exchanges that sloppily try to impart messages the film hasn’t earned in an attempt to seem like it is about something to viewers desperately reaching for meaning. There are critics who have called this film and the original musical that inspired it a biting satire, but satire is one of those words can you can just throw around in a review without actually having to show the evidence. Maybe they meant satyr? There's probably a satyr somewhere in this film.
Many musicals stand on the strength of their songs, so it’s too bad for Into The Woods that it doesn’t have a single memorable, catchy tune. I went to the film with four other people and not one person could remember a single song from the movie that didn’t have the film’s title in it. The films many jokes aren’t so much jokes as statements in the cadence of a joke. One gem of a joke (that made the audience erupt in laughter) is Meryl Streep saying “Oh My God” in a frustrated manner to express her frustration. Every other joke is as devoid of wit, relying on a wacky delivery for laughs. Every line puts an enormous burden on the actor to sell it, and luckily for the film, the actors are mostly game. Emily Blunt and James Corden do a pretty strong job as the films center, especially Emily Blunt, whose character has an arc that follows a truly nonsensical, unearned path into a truly baffling end.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the film’s single worst scene, which is Johnny Depp’s scene as the Big Bad Wolf, which features a song with thoroughly creepy pedophilic undertones with little artistic merit to justify the decision. I struggled to find any meaningful reason why the Big Bad Wolf is unambiguously a stand-in for a pedophile and why Little Red Riding Hood has a song about how exciting and stimulating the experience is, because the film genuinely seems to be condoning sex with a child, but I doubt any thought was actually put into the decision, because it would be the first evidence of thoughtfulness in the entire film.
Many of my problems with the film are not just with the adaptation (though it’s difficult to see where the budget was spent outside of the actors) but with the source material itself, so if you like the original musical you may like the film. For me, this is the worst film I’ve seen in a year that a new Nicholas Sparks movie came out.
Rating: 0/5 Dancing Depps
How does Into The Woods compare to other films in terms of films featuring grating Johnny Depp characters?
Johnny Depp as The Big Bad Wolf is
Less irritating than: The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland
More irritating than: Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Into the Woods is like expecting to bite into a gooey chocolate chip cookie but biting into an oatmeal raisin instead. It’s not what you expected, still mediocre, but you wish you hadn’t wasted the calories.
I love musicals—Rent, Wicked, what’s better than listening to talented people sing catchy songs? The problem with Into the Woods, for me, was that the songs weren’t catchy. The cast is dynamite—Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, can’t really go wrong—but thesongs themselves disappointed. They aren’t catchy or well-written and since ninety percent of the movie is singing, it kind of ruins it.
I would go on to talk about the great acting and set design, costumes and special effects, but really, none of that was too impressive either. Little Red Riding Hood is an annoying actress, Anna Kendrick’s Cinderella doesn’t get too magnificent of a dress, the central premise of the film (that the Baker and Baker’s wife must collect a variety of things to reverse a spell) is lazily written with no real logical connection, and the advertisements highlighted Johnny Depp for only five minutes of screen time. Although the company with whom I saw this movie was a Nutella chocolate chip cookie, the movie itself was a stale prune oatmeal one.
Stars: 2 out of 5