Front Row at the Movies
“Into the Woods” Is Fantasy That Deals With Reality
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Dr. Bruno Bettelheim (author of “The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales”) once sat me down and explained how fairy tales help prepare children for adulthood. He used many of Grimm’s Fairy Tales as examples.
Now Disney is trying to do the same thing with its new musical fantasy, “Into the Woods.”
Having made its own cinematic version of “Cinderella,” “Rapunzel,” and other children’s stories, the Mouse House is now putting your favorite fairy tales into a blender and giving you a smoothie.
Actually, “Into the Woods” started out as a Broadway musical by Stephen Sondheim (“A little Night Music”). Director Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) took the idea of turning it into a film to the folks at Disney – and knowing something well suited for their magic kingdom they readily agreed.
“Into the Woods” is now playing at Tropic Cinema.
The plot is simple: Taking a page from mythologist Joseph Campbell, we have a young couple (James Corden and Emily Blunt) setting out on a journey into the woods in order to break a witch’s spell that renders them childless. Along the way they meet up with an array of your favorite fairy tale characters.
They include Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Jack and the Giant (David Huddlestone and Frances de la Tour), Little Red Riding Hood (Lila Crawford) and the Wolf (yes, a furry Johnny Depp). The witch (a green-skinned Meryl Streep) is lurking about, casting her spells too.
The music by Sondheim is hummable, some 50 cuts on the soundtrack. He wrote two new songs for the movie.
Broadway fans may be upset that the story has been Disneyized (for example, Rapunzel does not die in the movie version).
Sondheim is philosophical about it. “Censorship is part of our puritanical ethics,” he observes. “There has to be a point at which you don't compromise anymore, but that may mean that you won’t get anyone to sell your painting or perform your musical. You have to deal with reality.”
Funny to be talking about reality when discussing a fairy tale fantasies.