When it comes to Disney adaptations of traditional stories, nothing could quite prepare us for the star-studded dark twists of 2015’s ‘Into The Woods’. Amalgamating four traditional tales by Stephen Sondheim-James – Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and Red Riding Hood – the film spirals through a quest of love, coming of age, self-discovery and adventure. Hitting every note for a musical lover – the film epitomises the term ‘guilty pleasure’, although anything with Johnny Depp in I’m not remotely guilty about!
The clever fairy-tale mash-up really excels in providing the morals and virtues of traditional fables, yet with a modern and welcomed hint of fantasy and comedy in true Disney form. The recognisable and high calibre cast including Meryl Streep, James Cordon, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and Emily Blunt adds to the immense grandeur of the picture, and it’s inevitable that director, Rob Marshall, had visions of something quite spectacular.
Set predominantly, and quite obviously, in a fictional Woods – a location which is usually a transfer-period between scenes in most other tales – the film is dark and mysterious in tone, and has a sense of foreboding throughout.
The plot revolves around a kind-hearted Baker (Cordon) and his barren Wife (Blunt) who long for a child to occupy their empty nest. A curse struck upon the village by a once-beautiful, now-evil witch (Streep) means that the couple will never fulfil their dream of being parents unless they bring her an assortment of items to lift the curse.
Drawing in the characters from the subsequent fables, the couple have 3 nights before the next full moon to collect a Red Cape; of Riding Hood variety, a white cow; belonging to Jack, a golden slipper; a possession of Cinders, and a length of hair as yellow as corn – cue Rapunzel.
In traditional fantasy-quest style, there are obstacles along the way. Ups and downs, peppered with exaggerated and catchy musical numbers – all of which are surprisingly well sung by the protagonists. A favourite song of mine is one by Prince charming; splashing overtly across a waterfall as he chants for his run-away Cinderella. Kendrick, who plays the damsel in question, spices up the traditional Cinders role by playing an indecisive and independent version of the character. As ‘Being with a Prince wasn’t really what she expected!’ her indecisive demeanour proves to be with reason as the arrogant prince locks-lips with another woman. This twist in tradition leads to Cinders’ inability to commit – and the pinnacle of comedy lines is delivered by her Prince when he states ‘I was raised to be Charming, not sincere!’
The audio scoring of the film is classic Musical cheese – perfectly catchy for a 2 hour film. The repetitive melodies and clever lyrical dimensions have you whistling ‘Into the Woods’ long after the credits have rolled. Not just for children; this Disney delight is perfect entertainment for audiences of all ages. As a light-hearted, enjoyable spin on well-loved stories, ‘Into The Woods’ is well worth a watch!