This review contains mild spoilers.
The first time I saw Into the Woods, it was an amateur theatre production that involved barely suppressed Australian accents, a runaway hen that fell into the orchestra pit, concussing part of the strings section, and Little Red Ridinghood’s lines in Prologue being delivered as either comically shrill or terror-inducing.
Thankfully, the film adaptation of Into the Woods didn’t have those same issues. Or maybe disappointingly because, let’s face it, my overriding memory of that performance is of laughing so hard I developed a stitch in my side.
From what I can remember, the story was pretty faithful to the original with a few variations. The fact that Rapunzel lives does make Witch’s Lament feel lacklustre and oddly placed, especially since Rapunzel never returns to the action and the Witch seems totally fine with that.
The internet was flooded with panicked complaints when it was announced that Any Moment could be omitted from the final cut of the film but the song is alive and well. In keeping with the movie’s PG rating, there’s no explicit indication that the Baker’s Wife and Cinderella’s Prince engage in anything more than a heavy make-out session. The characters’ intentions and desires are clear enough to carry that plot point on their own merit.
I enjoyed the singing from the whole cast, who managed to make even Sondheim’s most discordant phrases pleasing to the ear. I’m used to seeing the roles of Jack and Little Red Ridinghood played by older actors but Daniel Huttlestone and Lilla Crawford pull off their parts so effortlessly that, after an initial moment of surprise, I found myself forgetting that I had seen it any other way.
Honourable mentions go to the princes (Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen) for ensuring that Agony was just as ridiculous as I expected it to be.
Another honourable mention goes to Johnny Depp for his five-minute appearance as the Wolf. He makes a strong and creepy impression and left a lot of people in the audience squirming uncomfortably when they considered the paedophilic innuendo in his song.
Though the film adaptation has necessitated certain detours from the stage play, I found Into the Woods to be a fun and thought-provoking movie. I’ve always been interested in fractured fairy tales so the message resonates strongly with me. I would recommend this movie to newcomers and old fans alike, and to anyone interested in the darker side of fairy tales.