By Erin Keating
The movie adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s hit musical, Into the Woods, opened on December 25, and was a box office success, grossing $46.1 million according to Playbill.com. Although many had voiced concerns that the movie would be “Disneyfied”, as a result of this dark fairy tale adaptation being produced by Disney, the movie did not stray far from the play. Perhaps this was because Sondheim was actively involved in the movie-making process. Sondheim worked with Disney and approved all changes, including cutting a few songs, as well as writing a new one specifically for the movie. Don’t fear: Into the Woods’ message, “be careful what you wish for” still rings true, despite its apparent conflict with Disney’s ideology that encourages us to just keep wishing on stars.
In addition to the music, which translated very well onto the big screen with some assistance again on the part of Sondheim, the cast was perfect for this adaptation. The ever-talented Anna Kendrick, who got her start on Broadway, was a very natural, charming Cinderella with a voice fit for a Disney princess during “On the Steps of the Palace”. Speaking of charming, Chris Pine was perfectly devilish as Cinderella’s Prince, and displayed his surprising vocal skills during the laugh-out-loud “Agony” duet with Rapunzel’s Prince, Billy Magnussen. Unfortunately, Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Big Bag Wolf, although creepy, is not on the same level as disturbing as the Wolf is usually portrayed onstage. Not to mention, the Wolf receives much less stage time than one would expect, given how frequently Johnny Depp was mentioned during advertising. However, not all of the big name actors fell short. James Corden as the Baker, Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, and Meryl Streep as the Witch, all exceeded expectations.
Visually, the movie was beautiful, especially considering that director, Rob Marshall, refused to use CGI. In an interview with the LA Times Marshall said that shooting the film in a real forest was the only way to capture the feeling of it – the feeling of the woods was not something that could be recreated by actors in front of a green screen. Clearly, Marshall made the correct decision. The movie has an enchanting, simply magical, feeling that captures the attention of its audience, regardless of how familiar they were with the musical going into it.