Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 Stars
Bottom Line: The songs are done right. The story is more fleshed out than the play. Sadly, the fleshing out makes for a boring second act.
“Into the Woods” is one of my favorite plays due to a certain redhead with an amazing singing voice who introduced me to it many generations ago. I’ve seen the play a few times and was trepidatiously eager when I heard Disney was making a film of the play. Because Disney. It’s a fairly adult themed play. Would they tame down the Wolf? Would they gloss over the adultery? Would they dance around the death? Would they do the magnificent musical score justice? The answers are no, somewhat, yes, and YES!
Act 1 was a marvel. The casting was perfect except, maybe, for Johnny Depp as the Wolf. Though it is easy to see Johnny Depp as a creepy pedophile, he doesn’t really do “Hello, Little Girl” justice. It’s not bad, but neither is it fantastic. It’s just there. I also was a little put off by the kid they cast as Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) at first, but he grew on me. Other than that, my goodness, did they do the first act right. It contained all the magic and beauty that I wanted to see for the movie. No one can top Bernadette Peters as the Witch, but my does Meryl Streep give her a run for her money. Even the odd choices for cast members like Chris Pine as Prince Charming worked well.
Then, sadly, Act 2 happened and all of the magic disappeared. Even the play suffers somewhat in the second act, but the movie, instead of using the time to make sense of a fairly convoluted plot, decides to go on a half hour long song drought where there’s lots of exposition on what’s going on before just throwing together all of the remaining songs together in a haphazard fashion. The songs are still great, but even I saw my interest waning by the time they got around to them. If they threw in an original number in that half hour gap, maybe making fun of the craziness of the entire situation, the second act would have been much more enjoyable.
They really should have just ended the film at the end of the first act. It’s certainly a little “happily ever after”, which Stephen Sondheim doesn’t do, but it’s a complete movie and was thoroughly enjoyable up to that point. What you end up with is another movie with a fantastic soundtrack that is well worth getting. I can see getting the DVD and fast forwarding through the bad parts to get to your favorite song, but it’s not worth sitting in the theater for.
So, yes we’ve had this moment. Even though it was a bad one. And Rob Marshall’s made atonement by making “Chicago” which is a rad one.