What a fabulous movie version of this amazing musical! This is arguably Stephen Sondheim's best musical with lyrics that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you rewind to listen to them again. Though I was nervous when the movie rights were sold to Disney, I was delighted to find they did not sugarcoat the potentially risqué topics of infidelity, child abandonment, and death.
The singing is fabulous with the two exceptions being the two biggest names, Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences clearly disagrees with me though, since Ms. Streep got her 19th Oscar nomination for her role as the witch in Into the Woods. Like every character she portrays, Streep tackles this role with enthusiasm and energy, and while she does indeed do an excellent job, she is no Bernadette Peters who originally portrayed the witch on Broadway back in 1987.
Those who write this movie off simply because the script is sung rather than spoken are intellectually incurious. The story is more than a hodgepodge of fairy tale characters trying to escape a witch’s evil curse. Into the Woods has a darker side with numerous morals, but the overarching lesson being “be careful what you wish for.” That being said though, Disney does what it does best and has translated this adult fairy tale into a family film loaded with all the ingredients to make it appealing and appropriate for everyone.
If you enjoy this movie and want to see more like it, try watching the TV series Once Upon a Time. Now in its fifth season, Once upon a Time is a clever (though also corny) blending of all your favorite childhood characters. If it’s the wit of the lyrics that draws you to Into the Woods, try listening to Sondheim’s musical, Assassins. Like Into the Woods was before Disney bought the movie rights, Assassins is a lesser-known story filled with unexpected depth and meaning, all expressed through witty lyrics that’ll make your head spin. If it’s a book that you’re looking for, try jumping into Chris Colfer’s juvenile series, The Land of Stories. Even adults will find pleasure in the charm of this jumbled, playful fractured fairy tale.