Into the Woods (2014)
Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine & Johnny Depp
Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Based on the Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, Into the Woods centers on iconic fairy tale characters including, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, young Jack (and his beanstalk) and Rapunzel as their stories intertwine with a childless baker and his wife, tasked to reverse a witch’s curse put upon them. The impressive ensemble cast includes, Meryl Streep (August: Osage County), Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada), James Corden (The Three Musketeers), Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect), Chris Pine (Star Trek), Tracey Ullman (The Tracey Ullman Show) and Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger).
Beloved for its sensational music and risqué interpretations of fairy tales, Into the Woods takes certain liberties with its big-screen adaptation while, remaining true to the spirit of its stage production. With all changes and revisions approved by its original creators, Disney’s modestly budgeted spectacle charms viewers with Dennis Gassner’s (Big Fish) rich production design and eclectic cast that all manage to carry Sondheim’s music with ease. Incorporating characters from several Brothers Grimm tales, Into the Woods centers on a husband and wife baking team (Corden and Blunt), unable to have children due to a wicked witch’s (Streep) curse. In order to break the spell, the couple must fetch various items belonging to fellow characters including, Little Red Riding Hood’s cape, Cinderella’s shoe, Rapunzel’s hair and Jack’s cow. Accustomed to each character and their respective stories, Into the Woods turns audience expectation on its head with twists that playfully poke fun at the sappy and clichéd tales. While, more adult content and heavier violence may be softened, suggestive sequences involving Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford in her film debut) and The Wolf, in a minor role by Johnny Depp re-teaming with his Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides director, remain intact and inject a splash of innuendo.
No stranger to the musical world, Director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine) delivers a fantasy world of wonder and fear that takes viewers‘ breath away. Unsurprisingly loaded with musical sequences, Into the Woods bewitches with its rich soundtrack including, the film’s catchy prologue and the hilariously passionate “Agony” performed by Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen. While, its on-screen talent never lacks, the film’s standout performance belongs to Emily Blunt whose comedic timing and beautiful singing voice elevate the picture to even higher standards. Although, captivating and gorgeous, Into the Woods experiences pacing issues in its final act that tend to drag the picture down. Whilst, “happily ever after” doesn’t exactly apply as one would expect, characters dissatisfied with their fates seek to rectify them as danger looms from a violent female giant threatening the villagers of the woods. A mild setback but, one that attempts to cram too much into a timeframe that would have benefitted from more breathing room. Regardless of these mishaps, Into the Woods is a magical journey based on the fairy tales you thought you knew but, tweaked on a grand scale with astounding production detail and exhilarating musical performances.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Into the Woods with a 1080p transfer, bearing a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Although, doused in dimly lit, fog-entranced settings, Into the Woods astonishes with inky black levels that reveal no crushing and crystal clear visibility. Skin tones register naturally and remarkably detailed while, more prominent colors found in Little Red Riding Hood’s cape and Cinderella’s gold gown pop and sparkle magnificently. In addition, mildly used but, wildly effective, Into the Woods’ visual effects sequences light up the screen with zero imperfections on display. Simply put, Into the Woods casts a perfect spell of a transfer. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, Into the Woods sings perfect harmonies with exceptional dialogue levels that project with sheer crispness. Meanwhile, the plentiful musical sequences excite the mix with solid depth and range that will leave viewers enraptured by the powerful sound. In one of Disney’s more recently packed releases, special features run aplenty including, an Audio Commentary with Director Rob Marshall, Streep Sings Sondheim - “She’ll Be Back” (4:48). Introduced by Marshall, this newly crafted song was shot for the film but ultimately cut. Also included, There’s Something About the Woods (13:23), The Cast As Good As Gold (10:10), Deeper Into the Woods, a four-part featurette covering From Stage to Screen (8:33), The Magic of the Woods (7:24), Designing the Woods (7:07) and The Costumes of the Woods (6:53). Finally, Music & Lyrics allows viewers to jump directly to their favorite songs of the film or watch the entire film with optional lyrics while, Sneak Peeks for Disney Movie Rewards (0:32), Once Upon A Time (0:32), The Lion King Broadway Musical (0:32) and Disney’s Descendants (0:17) are included with a Digital HD Code of the release rounding out the supplemental material.
Capturing the wondrous and fantastical realms of fairy tales, Into the Woods takes the familiar and delivers an entirely unique, slightly adult-oriented revision of happily ever after. Richly conceived and supporting one of the most talented ensemble casts put forth in a musical, Disney’s big-screen adaptation does justice to its original production, giving movie audiences an effort well worth venturing into. In addition, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray release is unquestionably perfect with an informative and ample amount of supplements. Wishing upon a star, Disney enthusiasts and the musically-minded will find magical delight journeying Into the Woods.
Available today from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Into the Woods can be purchased via DisneyStore.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.