Into the Woods (2014)
A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.”
— IMDB, vague as usual
Plot: 2/5 (4/5 without all the plot holes)
To be fair, the IMDB description isn’t wrong, it’s just really vague. Here’s my go at it:
To reverse the curse of barren-ness placed on his family tree, by an inconsistently wicked witch neighbor (who, in turn, is under the curse of ugliness placed upon her by her mother) a Baker and his wife set out to find “a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold”. These objects must be collected by midnight in 3 days time so the witch can reverse both her curse and his- mostly because the curse is his father’s fault- he stole magic beans from the witch, and her mom’s curse only kicked in because the beans she held so dear were no longer in the witches possession, which if you ask me means she should have kept them in a much more secure location than right up against the fence to her vegetable garden. These items are collected from Jack (as in “Jack and the Beanstalk”), Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel (who is the Baker’s sister, taken by the Witch for his father’s treachery and locked in a tower, something that only bothers the Baker for the duration of the first song then he completely forgets), and Cinderella.
If I had to describe this movie in 2 words, it would be “Aggressively OK”, and that’s pretty much all there is to say. Like, that’s the only way I can even think to describe “Into the Woods”.
I think it can also be summarized as a musical version of the movie “Brother’s Grimm” (I know, “Into the Woods” came first, it’s just for the sake of comparison, OK). It’s a stage musical brought to… well…. something resembling life.
I’m trying to think of how to describe it all without spoilers, and it’s really difficult. The movie is painfully long- that scene where you think everything is done, that’s like the midpoint. If the whole second half hadn’t happened it would be a better movie, just because that’s the last time the movie makes SENSE.
I’ll tell you what- I’ll post my spoiler review of the plot at the very bottom, and I’ll do some general stuff up here. The movie jumps around a lot, so I will do the plot review by character, for a change.
Jack and the Beanstalk- This side of the story was pretty good. I think in the whole movie Jack’s character was the most consistent. He’s a kind of spacey little boy who is tricked by the baker into trading five petrified beans (the very same stolen from the witch who he doesn’t even bother mentioning them to even though it might help ease the tensions with her if not help break her curse entirely) for his barren cow- on the condition that Jack can buy it back. My issue with Jack’s story is the timeline just is ridiculous and doesn’t fit with the main story. Around mid-day on Day 1, Jack gets the Beans. By around evening he gets home, his mom throws them in the garden, and overnight the beanstalk grows. At dawn his mother wakes up and they discover the beanstalk. Skip ahead around an hour or two and Jack is waking up the baker with these massive golden coins to buy back the cow with, he’s climbed the beanstalk, met a giantess, had dinner, hung out for a while, almost been eaten by her husband, climbed back down to drop off treasure, and gone searching the woods for the baker. Even if you make the argument that time runs differently up on the beanstalk world, it makes no sense.
Nor is it ever explained how a massive beanstalk appears not far out of town actually, stretching all the way into the sky to the point where it should be very visible from the castle, and not a single person goes to have a look. Even after it’s chopped down and causes a big earthquake throughout the kingdom. And it totally has to- because of spoiler things.
Red Riding Hood- Again, I like this character, she’s fun, but her storyline is weird and she really has no purpose other than to be a sounding board to explore the other character’s personalities, which is a shame, the actress was great. Red goes off to her grandmother, the Wolf (really just Johnny Depp with cheap-ass fake dog ears and fuzzy gloves singing a song about pedophilia) runs the opposite direction of the cottage yet still beats her there and eats the granny, then puts on her clothes even though when the Baker comes along and cuts Red and her granny out of the wolf’s stomach Granny’s still fully clothed. Then Red only shows up to convince Jack to climb up the beanstalk again and continue his crime spree in the giant kingdom (I’ve always had issues with that story. I saw “Jack and the Beanstalk: The Untold Story” as a kid and it kind of screwed me up for the entire myth, good mini series though). She appears again at the end of the movie, again doing absolutely nothing. She also— wait. Spoiler. OK, I’ll save it for the end.
Cinderella follows the real story, not the Disney kid-friendly version, just be warned, this is NOT A MOVIE KIDS SHOULD GO TO (hint: it involves amputations). She’s a girl bullied by her stepmother and step sisters, physically abused, and yet for some bizarre reason her wish isn’t to get away from the stepmother, to have a home of her own, to find happiness, nope, it’s to go to a 3 day party for no reason other than it would be a change. Legit. If you’re unfortunate enough to watch the movie, that’s pretty much it. Her wish is granted by what I’m assuming is the spirit of her dead mother who has inhabited a golden willow tree Cinderella planted at her mother’s grave. And yet, even though they say she went there “so often and cried so much that her tears watered the branch until it grew into a magnificent tree”, her mother only appears this one time when she wants to get her groove on. She goes to the party all 3 days, and all 3 days she runs away from the prince at midnight and he spends the entire night searching for her- because putting 2 guards on the door for when she flees is too mainstream, he’d rather coat the steps in pitch so she sticks. He’s really not the brightest cookie in the crayon jar.
The Baker and his Wife have the only storyline that even kind of makes sense (well, it’s great up until the *spoiler* where she *spoilers* with the *spoiler* because of *spoiler* and then *spoiler* and he *spoilers* because THAT somehow makes sense).
The witch is just annoying because her character is like rewritten every time you see her. She just kind of wham-bam’s in at the beginning of the movie out of nowhere with this quest and a very very very thin reason for doing it then keeps popping up to yell at them for no good reason all because she “Can’t touch the objects for the potion” and yet somehow that also means she can’t help out like at all??? For someone who’s so fixated on ending this curse, she’s incredibly passive about it.
This movie has so many loose ends I’m not even sure it’s got one tight one to use as a comparison.
Acting: 4/5 (And AA for Pine)
That’s what gets me about this movie: the acting is REALLY GOOD (except Depp, but he dies like 10 minutes in and no one talks about his character again, whatever they paid him, it was a waste of money, a chorus guy probably plays him or doubles as another character in the stage play, it redefines minor part). Emily Blunt (Baker’s Wife), Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), James Corden (Baker, and CRAIG FROM “DOCTOR WHO”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), Daniel Huttlestone (Jack, and Gavroshe from “Les Mis”, you’re welcome, that was gonna bug you the whole movie), Lilla Crawford, and Meryl Streep were excellent, I’ve got no issues with them.
The ones who weren’t so great though–
He was probably sick or it was a bizarre and unexplained aesthetics decision- but Chris Pine looks WASTED in every scene. His eyes are unfocused, he looks like he was pulled out of a bar and slapped into costume, and he just seems glazed over compared to how he usually appears in movies. I’m like 85% that it’s the make up and wardrobe team’s fault, but either way he’s more Prince Sloshed than Prince Charming. There is also one REALLY bad song between him and his brother, the other prince who is never named and until that moment you didn’t even know they were related, where Pine is overdoing the lip synching to a degree way beyond satire (I blame the Director for that though, it’s supposed to be over the top, but he made it so over the top it’s in orbit).
Mackenzie Mauzy (Rapunzel). Now, she wasn’t in a lot of scenes, she did a great job with the scenes she was in, but she was just kind of vacant. There was nothing there to make me give a crap about Rapunzel’s problems. Also, now that I’m thinking about it- the Prince sees her in her tower, and by like 2 hours later when the Baker’s Wife finds her and starts chatting with her she’s like “Yeah, that’s how my boyfriend visits me” even though he really would have only had time for a gallop-by “Hello”.
GOD, THE TIMELINE OF THIS MOVIE IS ANNOYING.
As for Billy Magnussen (Prince Charmingly Drunk’s little bro, I’m guessing)- his character makes little to no impression and what the prince does at the end of the movie calls the entire thing into question and he literally rides off with Rapunzel (got all the way to the last look through of the edit for this post before I realized I’d typed “Rumpelstiltskin” instead. Spoiler- he does not ride off with Robert Carlisle, though that would have been hilarious) out of the story and neither is heard from again even though *spoiler* is happening and they should really be concerned.
Age Recommendation: 15+
It’s probably fine for kids younger than that, but they won’t be interested in this for the most part. It’s WAY too long and jumps around a lot- sometimes mid-sentence. As for the violence and such- like I said, this is the raw form of some of these fairy tales which means:
- Red Riding Hood is eaten by the wolf and hacked out of his stomach while he screams
- Rapunzel’s prince is thrown headfirst into a wall of vines by the witch and his eyes are pierced by the thorns
- Cinderella’s stepmother cuts off one daughter’s toe and the other’s heel and forces them to walk in the gold slippers to trick the prince into marrying one. One literally passes out from the pain, but that isn’t enough- like a minute later, when she’s got her happy ending going, Cinderella calls down a flock of birds to rip out their eyes.
While I like that they chose to go with the original tales, it’s dark as hell, and when I saw it there were little kids in the theater who I thought were going to like start having panic attacks at the Cinderella part especially.
Spoiler-ie Complaints for People Who Know the Plot or Don’t Care About Spoilers
Finally, the muzzle is off my fingers… OK, it makes more sense if you don’t picture me as sitting at my desk typing all of this and think of it as me speaking instead (Female voice, mid-range , and I’ve been told several times it’s soothing, if that helps your imagination. Oh, and American accent but like mid-American, not southern or too northern.)
Oh, plotty thing you need to know for these rants– the middle of the movie, what feels like the first ending, everyone has what they want- Rapunzel is marrying the Prince, Cinderella is marrying a drunk prince (not literally, he only looks and acts like it), the baker and his wife have a baby (and if you listen closely in the scene where she’s wham-bam pregnant, I think you can hear her rib break), and Jack and his mom are financially secure, a female giant comes down a second beanstalk and begins destroying everything, demanding Jack be brought to her to pay for his crimes- mostly because he murdered her husband, which is a legit reason to be upset, but the whole group decides rather than talk to her and try to find a solution they should really just kill her- and the best time to do that is literally 2 seconds after singing a song about how sometimes people make bad decisions because they are angry or upset and you should forgive them and give them another chance.
This movie makes zero sense on a case-by-case basis:
Jack and the Beanstalk- In the span of 3 days Jack goes up the beanstalk like 4 times, each time having a big adventure, stealing something new, and coming back with it. KLEPTO. Plus, it makes no sense with how often he pops up in the story. He also goes running off to hide and leaves behind his mother who he then freaks about about because she’s not standing like right there when he gets back. He also gets over her death pretty quickly like “Damn, I’m mad! *everyone sings about forgiveness and understanding, then kills someone who they actually legitimately wronged* Aw, you’re my new daddy!”
Cinderella- the prince turns out to be a douche and she decides to end the relationship- even though we just saw them on their wedding day in front of the whole kingdom and you really can’t just do the “Oh well, see you around” thing with that…
The Baker’s wife, devoted to her husband the entire movie suddenly decides to snog the prince and then falls off a ledge that was only around 5 feet high when we saw it but is later referred to as a cliff and she fell to her gruesome death, even though Jack is wearing the scarf that was around her neck and it’s totally clean and not even wrinkled, let alone torn up or bloody, though the Baker’s wife’s face was so fucked up he didn’t recognize her to tell the Baker, even though he’s seen her A HALF DOZEN TIMES ALREADY.
Red Riding Hood shows up after the giantess has destroyed all the landmarks in the woods and everyone is lost, looking for her grandmother because the village collapsed (which I take it means her mother might be dead but they never really go anywhere with that thought). Then, about 5 minutes later, she’s decided granny’s gone too and she needs a new family. Without bothering to check.
The Witch turned back into a beautiful old lady for a few minutes, tried to kill a child, then went bonkers and started throwing a hell of a lot of magic beans around while singing something no one was really paying attention to and instead of turning into an old hag, she turns into… a tar pit? And no one is confused by this?
The giantess gets pelted with a bunch of pebbles that would literally have to be around the size of the head of a Q-tip and she’s mildly annoyed, but Jack throws one that hits her around the hairline and she tips over and dies… THE FUCK WAS THAT???
The Baker decides the best place for story time is in the shadow of the corpse of the woman they just killed. Literally. If you’re ever unfortunate enough to see the movie you’ll see I’m not joking- they literally sit on a piece of the tree the giantess fell on, holding a baby and with 2 small kids sitting on the ground in front of him, and starts with the “Once upon a time” bullshit.
I swear to god, “The Last Airbender” had more shit together than this movie. And that movie was, literally, shit.