Into the Woods (2014)
December 26, 2014 3:57 PM - Subscribe

You wish to have the curse reversed? I'll need a certain potion first.

Go to the wood and bring me back:
One: the cow as white as milk,
Two: the cape as red as blood,
Three: the hair as yellow as corn,
Four: the slipper as pure as gold.
posted by jeather (29 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Aging down Red and Jack was a bad mistake. Johnny Depp was a (predictably) worse mistake. Getting rid of Ever After and So Happy was probably the worst mistake, hiding the "rushed into a fake happy ending/what you wish is totally not what you want" turn into Act 2.

The acting was generally good, the costuming was fantastic. But I don't really get why they made a lot of the changes they made.
posted by jeather at 4:01 PM on December 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I saw this yesterday with the whole family and was impressed. I saw a touring Broadway production of the show in Ashland, Oregon's Shakespeare festival and seeing it live was fantastic, but the movie came really close. The staging and lighting and costumes were all good and the whole thing looked like a play/stage production and less like a typical movie. The performances from everyone (save maybe Johnny Depp, who was only so-so) were amazing and the familiar songs sounded magnificent. I can't believe I liked it so much, but I really did, though it was a total musical, and less a movie with musical elements.
posted by mathowie at 4:02 PM on December 26, 2014


I loved this play with the passion of a preteen drama geek when I was younger, so I was both super-excited and super-nervous about the movie.

I honestly don't think anything can match the thrill of seeing a production like this in the theater. It's such an amazing theater-going experience. I felt that some of the jokes that do so well on stage (like most of Little Red Riding Hood's one-liners) fell flat on the screen. And I was also annoyed at some of the compressing they did - the second act was completely rushed.

But I really enjoyed it, and I think overall it was very entertaining. Meryl Streep was so great as the witch. Even if she doesn't have Bernadette Peters' vocal chops, she's still Meryl Streep and totally sold it, especially "Last Midnight." I thought the two child actors were amazing, especially given that one of them was so annoying in Les Miserables, and that the other had a part that was a bit too broad for the screen as opposed to the theater.

The music sounded gorgeous - loved the orchestration.

Oh, and what's the deal with spoilers here? I had heard rumors that they'd taken out an important plot point for the baker's wife in the second act, and I was annoyed about that, but it turns out that rumor was wrong. Whew.
posted by lunasol at 8:07 PM on December 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Schools will often put on a "kids' version" of Into The Woods that omits acts and and characters and that's kind of what this felt like. A heavily edited but very well produced and acted version for the Whole Family and not the deeply troubling, entangled version of the original. I liked it, cause I liked hearing what songs where there done with full Hollywood bombast behind them, but it was a bowdlerized, sanitized version of the original. I'm glad a mass audience can see some of it (cause it's a long, involved, musical theater nerd's musical) but it's really a rump version of the play.


You know kind of like how the OG fairy tales got turned into nice versions for consumption over time.

Just. Saying.
posted by The Whelk at 10:14 PM on December 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I haven't seen this yet, but plan on seeing it soon. I've read a bit about it, and wonder a bit about some of the choices (like deleting the Narrator, which means that there is no Omniscient Outsider guiding the action and there is no moment of "what the fuck do we do now, without the OO to make things turn out"), but Mr. hippybear saw it and really liked it, and he's easily as critical an audience as I am. So, I will see it soon, in a theater, and hopefully will enjoy it.

Here's the original Broadway production, for those who want to compare or whatever.
posted by hippybear at 1:58 AM on December 27, 2014 [2 favorites]


The movie version of Agony was great. (It is clear why they didn't do a sequel, which is that the "well we changed the Rapunzel ending because Disney doesn't want to kill a princess but the new ending is just as sad" thing was a straight up lie.)

I know that the actual musical is long (thank you for not making it into two movies), and that adding actual movie-level effects makes it longer. And though I am sad about the lack of narrator, I do understand why he was cut. The mysterious man was essentially cut, which makes sense except that he showed up in one scene for no reason. (It also explains why No More was cut.) Also adding the Blue Moon thing at least explained why the witch came at that time specifically.

Lilla Crawford is charming but didn't seem to be able to pull off the humour or maturity needed for Red. The kid who played Jack did okay but they couldn't decide whether to make the giant's wife maternal, but he didn't play as too innocent to deserve any blame for stealing everything and then killing her husband.

(As much as I sound like it, I'm not absolutely a purist in movie musicals. Many are bad because they put in Big Names instead of people who can sing (Chicago, Les Miserables) but for instance I also saw Annie and thought it was charming and a great update and do not understand the negative reviews.)
posted by jeather at 6:15 AM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Aging down Red and Jack was a bad mistake.
Would be willing to respectfully disagree/discuss. My current thought is that de-aging them plays up the vulnerablity of children to the whims of adults and lessons learned thereof. The loss of what usually turns into mutual coy sexual innuendo between young adults who can star in 8 shows a week is not a loss to me.

Sondheim/Lapine is so deep with multiple themes and I can see Disney believing that focusing in on a specific theme would be useful for audiences. And I can see focusing in on the malleability/vulnerabilty of children in keeping with Marshall's vision of a "post 9/11" story. Sondheim/Lapine apparently agreed given Lapine has sole writing credit.

All in all, two thumbs up, would watch again, tell me already where's the pirated download is at!
posted by beaning at 1:54 PM on December 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


My current thought is that de-aging them plays up the vulnerablity of children to the whims of adults and lessons learned thereof. The loss of what usually turns into mutual coy sexual innuendo between young adults who can star in 8 shows a week is not a loss to me.

My problem in general with a young Jack is that he needs to be old enough to have some real moral culpability for what he did, so that the Giant's Wife is at least somewhat reasonable in coming down and wanting revenge. In this production I think they did that okay -- apparently the kid playing him is 15. But he looks much younger. But in general his age confused the Giant's Wife storyline, and also made his mother into a rather worse parent.

Red is the bigger problem, because although in part her song is about how children are vulnerable to adults, it is also (and more) about a teen girl discovering her own sexuality and understanding of men, that "nice" people will try to convince you to keep doing things that you have said no to, that "nice" is shallow, and the complicated dance of wanting to be an adult vs wanting to stay a child, because sexuality is both fascinating and terrifying.

I don't miss innuendo between Red & Jack, but that seems an artifact of theatre and not important to the plot in the way that the semi-adulthood of them is.
posted by jeather at 9:17 AM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


My problem in general with a young Jack is that he needs to be old enough to have some real moral culpability for what he did, so that the Giant's Wife is at least somewhat reasonable in coming down and wanting revenge.

Given he went stole from her multiple times prior to causing the death of her husband, I think she showed remarkable restraint. Making him a teen has always made him seem a bit "simple" to me what with his lack of other friends, fondness for the cow, repeated thievery on a dare, apparent disinterest in Red's inneundos, concern over who will care for him after his mother's death, etc. And so to me a young Jack actually works better with the giants' apparent tolerance of his thievery, and his own mother's statement of "he's just a child".

I agree making Red younger is a bigger problem. But I think it might work in clarifying some of the parallel themes. To me, having Red young, and having her and Granny both eaten by the wolf makes them parallels of prey (of women by men? of weak by strong?) This removes the sex connotation which to me never worked with Granny anyway unless it was as a 'rape is about power' theme.

So in my opinion, making Jack and Red younger allows great clarity re the manipulation we do to each other and the results thereof. Jack is dared up the beanstalk and learns even the most patient giant/parent has their limits. Red (and Granny) show us that nice isn't the same as good. And the Prince/Cinderella/Baker's wife show the adult machinations. No wonder I miss the the Baker going "No More!"
posted by beaning at 9:26 PM on December 29, 2014


No wonder I miss the the Baker going "No More!"

No more questions, please!
No more quests!

(I love that song so much... I'm so sad to hear it isn't in the movie!)
posted by hippybear at 2:49 AM on December 31, 2014 [1 favorite]


Given he went stole from her multiple times prior to causing the death of her husband, I think she showed remarkable restraint.

Well, she did destroy the village, killing Red's mother and grandmother and Rapunzel. Accidentally, yes, but she killed people who were entirely innocent of anything to do with the theft or the death.

I generally think Jack should be 12-ish, and figure he's played by an older actor because it's a pretty big role for someone that age.

To me, having Red young, and having her and Granny both eaten by the wolf makes them parallels of prey (of women by men? of weak by strong?) This removes the sex connotation which to me never worked with Granny anyway unless it was as a 'rape is about power' theme.

I think that Granny is left in more to keep the story than because she is also confused by the wolf's faking nice. And of course to compare her parenting to Jack's mother's. I am not sure Lilla Crawford was old/mature enough to play Red; she seemed to be saying things that she didn't understand were snarky or even funny.

Another problem with the movie is that Rapunzel got an uncomplicatedly happy ending. She's a minor character, but it does this weird "you can end up just fine if you work only on your own wishes as long as you are lucky" ending.

I might see it again in theatres with family, but I will certainly see it again on DVD when they release the extended edition and when I am not sort of anxiously waiting to see what they changed.
posted by jeather at 8:03 AM on January 1, 2015


Further thoughts to Red: the other half of why it didn't work well is that Johnny Depp is way, way too old for her. Chris Pine (had he played both characters -- which I understand wouldn't've worked in the film) would have been better, or someone not older than him. She needs to feel somewhat attracted to the actual wolf, and that doesn't work with a 12 year old and Johnny Depp.
posted by jeather at 1:11 PM on January 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I saw Daniel Radcliffe suggested as alternate casting for the Wolf elsewhere on the internet, and I think that could have been fun.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:36 PM on January 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


The suggestion was made following the same line of thinking you have here- speculation of someone younger who teen girls might actually be attracted to, and not like, actually possible alternate casting, to be clear.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:38 PM on January 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's been a long time since I saw the stage version, so I can't really compare the two too much any more and what's missing. But...I did kind of enjoy that it wasn't quite as body-count-ish as the stage musical.

"Agony," as the two princes rip open their shirts, was hilarious. And the writhing in the water. And the leather pants. Chris Pine was pretty damn wolfish.

Yeah, I don't want to see Johnny Depp and a 12-year-old girl having a sexual vibe.

Can Cinderella and the prince just....break up like that? Aren't they married? With witnesses? Is he just going to go back and be all, "oops, guess she got eaten by a giant or something?" (probably, right?)

The thing I felt like suffered most was that there couldn't be an intermission because nobody does intermissions in movies any more. It just worked better to have a break in the action before switching to the hell of Act 2. This movie had to basically steamroll it in, complete with insta-pregnancy and all.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:58 PM on January 1, 2015


Well, she did destroy the village, killing Red's mother and grandmother and Rapunzel. Accidentally, yes, but she killed people who were entirely innocent of anything to do with the theft or the death.


Isn't her husband the first true innocent to die in this? The song "Your Fault" explores this concept a bit.

The musical is a bit puzzling as there are several times when the audience is expected to base a reaction on the original fairy tale rather than on the plot of the musical. In this specific scenario, the audience views the giants as evil based on that the giant threatens to eat Jack in the original fairy tale, but in the musical the giant is never shown actually threatening Jack and Jack seems to have made friends with the giant's wife. For all we know, the giants would have stayed in the sky forever if Jack hadn't stolen the coins, harp and hen. The giant wife's insistence on justice for her husband's murder is overtly paralleled with Jack's desire for justice for his mother's death by the major-domo. Sadly, when the children ask where should revenge end, the adults defer the hard question in favor the easy answer of "No One is Alone."
posted by beaning at 2:13 PM on January 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am not sure Lilla Crawford was old/mature enough to play Red; she seemed to be saying things that she didn't understand were snarky or even funny.

Good point, especially if the director wanted emerging sexual exploration played up rather than innocence manipulated. Also DanRad would have been better than Johnny D in this regard.

Wasn't Crawford cast after another actress left? I thought I read the original actress parents' believed the role too adult. Another interesting twist on the role of parents, and getting what you wanted (career-wise, at least).
posted by beaning at 2:18 PM on January 1, 2015


Can Cinderella and the prince just....break up like that?

In the musical, Cinderella indeed tells the prince to say she was a victim of the giant and the prince agrees.

In this specific scenario, the audience views the giants as evil based on that the giant threatens to eat Jack in the original fairy tale, but in the musical the giant is never shown actually threatening Jack and Jack seems to have made friends with the giant's wife.

The lyrics to Giants in the Sky say that he makes friends with the giant's wife, then the giant comes home and threatens to eat him so he steals everything and runs away. Since the first act is supposed to be fairly close to the actual fairy tales, I think it's reasonable to assume that this is what happened, though the giant probably wouldn't've bothered to do anything had Jack not stolen so much.

Wasn't Crawford cast after another actress left?

Yes, some 9 year old (when cast) child who -- based on youtube videos -- cannot sing.
posted by jeather at 2:43 PM on January 1, 2015


The movie's original Red was ten-year-old Sophia Grace Brownlee, who has a lot of moxie and really likes Nicki Minaj. Her parents withdrew her from the production, saying she was too young for the role.

I just wonder why it took so long to figure that out.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:45 PM on January 1, 2015


I enjoyed the film but was a little disappointed that it wasn't really cinematic. Most everything looked and was shot like stage sets. The woods never felt like place with real geography. We got to see the beanstalk but only got to hear about the giants in the sky rather than seeing their land, same as on stage. We didn't even really get to see the giant; she could have been bounding around flattening houses, knocking the castle about, etc.

I really liked James Corden and Emily Blunt as the Baker and his wife. The princes were both great as well. I am not sure what I thought of Meryl Streep.

Red, like Eponine in the recent Les Miz, stood out with her stage singing and stage acting when surrounded by a cast that didn't really do justice to the vocal score.
posted by mountmccabe at 9:39 AM on January 3, 2015


I just wonder why it took so long to figure that out.

She really wasn't a professional actress. She hit it big with a YouTube video, and then Ellen, and then this - it's quite a jump. Some kids could do it. She couldn't. I think it's better for her parents to recognize that and pull her (at, I'm sure, a huge financial impact for their family) than to have her go through the process, be miserable, and end up derided like poor Jake Lloyd for the rest of her life. (And Lloyd, at least had done some TV before Star Wars).
posted by anastasiav at 3:30 PM on January 4, 2015


I took in a sparsely attended matinee this afternoon. From the trailers, my main concern was that there seemed only to be one prince (and Agony is my favorite number in the show!) so I was relieved when Rapunzel's prince showed up.

I intentionally didn't refresh my memories of the show before going, and I'm glad I didn't; I minded the omissions less that way.

I was most impressed by Emily Blunt and Chris Pine. They were both very, very good. And I greatly enjoyed Tracy Ullman and Frances de la Tour (who has now played at least 1.5 giantesses on screen).

So many great women characters in Into the Woods.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:49 PM on January 5, 2015


Of course the reprise of Agony was the thing I missed most. It has my favorite lyric in the whole show ("Dwarfs are very upsetting"), as well as my favorite bit of wordplay:

CP: If it were not for the thicket--
RP: A thicket's no trick. Is it thick?
CP: It's the thickest.
RP: The quickest is pick it apart with a stick--
CP: Yes, but even one prick-- it's my thing about blood.
RP: Well, it's sick!
CP: It's no sicker than your thing with dwarves!

Please watch it. So great.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:11 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


That bit of lyric, plus the much earlier "while her whithers wither with her" are Sondheim at his brilliant best.
posted by hippybear at 4:58 PM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really liked this. I understand the changes they made, and actually appreciate the aging down of the children. It does tonally change the scenes of them maybe having sexual awakenings, but I thought it still worked fine, and made Jack's attitude a bit more understandable. I don't really have a problem with Rapunzel not dying, it's not like the final act wasn't fairly dark anyway. I did find Jack's mother's death by being pushed over a bit entertaining, but understand that being thwacked round the head by a staff would hardly work.

The thing you get with film is you get to see people acting, and the film uses Meryl Streep very well. Initially I was contrasting her to Bernedette Peter's hilarious opening "Greens" song but they went for a more gothic, less comedic tone for her consistently, and her performance to Rapunzel was just lovely.

I thought Agony was hilarious, and did want the reprise but I understand why it might not have worked with the flow of the film. Both Anna Kendrick and Emily Blunt were really good. I did like James Corden a lot, although I think there were a couple of moments where his voice wasn't as strong as it needed to be.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:01 AM on January 11, 2015


I haven't seen the stage version so I can't compare, but judging from the discussion here it sounds like it would be well worth seeking out.

As someone else mentioned above, I feel it failed to "show don't tell" in some cases, particularly in Jack's visits to the giants' kingdom. Yes, I get that you're singing about it because that's what you do in the stage musical where it's harder to show it, but couldn't they at least show it in flashback while he was singing about it?

Prior to this, I mainly knew James Corden from his appearances on Doctor Who (I'm aware he's done a bunch of other stuff, but I haven't seen it), which led to a bit of a disconnect when he's expressing concern early in the movie about whether he would be a good father, while I'm thinking "dude, on Doctor Who you were pretty much the best father ever." Probably didn't help that, as he had no name other than "The Baker" in the film, I kept calling the character "Craig" in my head.

Also, did I miss something, or are a) The Baker and Rapunzel siblings, and b) they never discover this? Seems like kind of a loose end if I'm understanding that correctly.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:56 AM on January 12, 2015


In the musical, certainly, yes, the Baker and Rapunzel are siblings. The narrator says so explicitly in the prologue.

[BAKER] I had a brother?
[WITCH] No. But you had a sisiter.
[NARRATOR] But the witch refused to tell him anymore of his sister. Not even that her name was Rapunzel.


The line was cut for the film but they did not offer anything contradicting it.

And you're right; they never have a moment of realization, it never comes up, and it never matters to the plot. The story of the Baker and his wife was made up by James Lapine; it makes sense that they used a long lost sibling trope and at least somewhat amusing that they all but ignore it completely. I expected Sondheim to have said something about it in the commentary on the show in Look I Made A Hat but I didn't see anything.
posted by mountmccabe at 2:35 PM on January 13, 2015


Also if one wants to watch a version of the stage show I very strongly recommend Timothy Sheader's production for Regent's Park Open Air Theatre from 2010. This production was imported to New York and done in Central Park by the Public Theater as part of their 2012 Shakespeare in the Park season.

It really was amazing to see the show outdoors.

Most of why I was let down by the film was that it didn't follow the Regent's Park production (with its shockingly good adjustments).
posted by mountmccabe at 2:43 PM on January 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


So Prince Rapey doesn't get squished by the giantess? I feel cheated.
posted by Catblack at 7:17 PM on January 13, 2015


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