A Cinematic Journey Into The Woods

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Based on the Stephen Sondheim play of the same name, Into the Woods is Disney’s big holiday movie for 2014.  The play itself is a tale about morality, vice, desire, and virtue.  Based on the concept that each fairy tale is supposed to teach us or our children a lesson to help them in life.  However the twist here is that several fairy tales collide to create the pillars of a whole new story where the object lesson is centered around the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”

I have to be perfectly honest here, before seeing this movie I knew very little to nothing about it.  Having never seen the play before or read much about it, never having heard the songs, I was going in blind.  There had been some brief discussion with my Disney Film Project Podcast co-hosts which contained a great deal of excitement from our own Rachel Kolb, who happens to be a huge fan of the play and knows a great deal about it.  When I’m in this situation I try not to come in with too many preconceptions.

The core story is about a Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) and their desire to start a family.  However they quickly learn that they have been cursed by their next door neighbor who happens to be a Witch played by Meryl Streep who really steals every scene she’s in.  Wanting to break the curse, and be able to have a child, the Witch assigns them to retrieve 4 seemingly normal items and bring them to her in 3 days time.  The trick however is that this sends them on a collision course with the fairy tales Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel. 4 items.  4 stories.

The problem however is that the wishes of each of the major characters – the Baker, his Wife, the Witch, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack, and Rapunzel – have consequences.  Each of their stories plays out somewhat as you know them, but it’s what happens after this that matters.  But the wishes themselves are just allegorical wrappings for the choices the characters continue to make throughout the story.  And how they have to learn to take responsibility for those choices.

There is a lot of commentary that discusses the difference between the musical and the movie, from the removal of songs, to the changes of plot elements.  While not having seen the play, I’m guessing this serves 2 purposes; the shorter time a movie has to tell a story, and that some things that work on stage do not work as well on film.  While this is a somewhat dark story that has some moments that you may need to either explain or gloss over to your children, this is still a family film.  I might consider the age and maturity of any pre-teen children before seeing this film with them.  This is a very solid movie, based on a well constructed story, that I greatly enjoyed watching.

In addition to doing the web design and programming for the On the Go in MCO website, Todd Perlmutter is a host for the Disney Film Project Podcast.

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