When I was in years five and six at primary school, in the wake of my passion for Hairspray, another musical obsession came to power: Into The Woods. I loved nothing more than Sondheim’s complicated rhythms and melodies, and the story that his music and James Lapine’s book told; I would watch the official recording of the Original Broadway production over and over again until I knew the songs word for word.
So I’m sure you can imagine my excitement when the movie was announced in 2012, and even more so when it was released the week before last. So, now that I’ve seen the movie three times since the first showing that ran at my local cinema (oops...), I feel like it’s time to share my thoughts and feelings on the movie as a whole, and how it compares to the Broadway musical that I love so much.
For starters, I think it’s pretty important that we chat about the casting decisions that were made and how perfect everyone really was. My three favourite characters are Cinderella, Littlered and The Baker’s Wife and I was so happy to see that Disney had cast them to (what I consider to be) the correct ages for the characters! I always wondered why Littlered was in her late teens, or why The Baker’s Wife appeared to be an older woman longing for a child as opposed to a madly in love younger woman. Other casting decisions like Meryl Streep and James Corden were fantastic in my eyes, and Christine Baranski as Cinderella’s stepmother was absolutely hilarious!
Differences between the original show and the movie were the only thing that bugged me slightly, though. For example, the fact that Rapunzel didn’t die in the film like she does in the stage show made The Witch’s irritated attitude towards those around her seem a little bit out of place, which actually made the character a little bit pointless: if you take a moment and think about it, the film could have actually done without the character without having affected any storylines. I also thought it was odd how The Baker’s father was cut as a character, which made the scene where his spirit talks to The Baker a little bit random and out of place because you really weren’t quite sure why on Earth he had to be there as a physical entity (plus, friends I have been with took a while to remember that he was the man shown right at the beginning of the movie in a very small scene!).
I’d also like to point out that some moments were dulled down so much to not offend children that it lost a lot of its heartbreak that it’s supposed to have on an audience: the death of Jack’s Mother was highly unrealistic (she literally fell and hit her head on a log and died from her wounds which seems incredibly unbelievable because she isn’t an OAP or anything). The Baker’s Wife’s death also seemed a little bit random as well because it really wasn’t built up to in any way: “Moments In The Woods” ended and she was dead within 45 seconds of the end of that cheery song. I know it happens similarly in the stage show, but surely you’d want to put more emphasis on the death of the film’s main character when you’re selling this film to a much wider target audience? And let’s not get me started on all of the cut songs – I know that it had to be done to make the film flow better, but it was such a shame to see favourites of mine like “Ever After” be totally left out (even though it wasn’t sung though, “Ever After” was played as underscore behind the wedding scene where the song is sung in the stage show).
Regardless of all of these differences to the Broadway musical, I truly enjoyed this film and would seriously watch it over and over again and not just because I love the show so much! I’ve seen it three times already, and I’ll be sure to see it even more times again before it leaves the cinema: a truly fantastic piece of cinematic musical theatre.
Written by Shaun Nolan
Check out where to catch Sondheim on stage this here in our recent blog Where To See Sondheim On Stage In 2015!
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