A long time ago in a far away kingdom on the edge of a great forest, there were some folks that wanted better lives. There is the baker (Corden) and his wife (Blunt), a crazy old witch (Streep), a girl (Kendrick) who is practically a slave to her step-mother (Baranski) and two obnoxious sisters (Blanchard and Punch), a mother (Ullman) and her son (Huttlestone) who are poor and starving, and a little girl (Crawford) who takes baked goods to her grandmother in the woods.
It all begins with the baker and his wife who want nothing more in their lives except to have a child. They get a visit from the crazy witch and she tells them that they are cursed because the baker’s father stole the witch’s magic beans a long time ago. To lift the curse, the witch needs a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold. So the baker heads off into the woods to obtain the items and start his family. Sounds easy enough, right? You’d be surprised.
INTO THE WOODS is directed by Rob Marshall, the visionary director of the musical CHICAGO. This just goes to show you that Marshall is no stranger to making stage musicals into films. Luckily, this film also has the backing of Disney film archives with full use of their fairy tale looks and stories. One clear example is Rapunzel and her tower. Aside from where it’s located, it looks straight out of the animated feature TANGLED.
The movie was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Meryl Streep. Her performance is absolutely incredible because she just lets it all out there and holds nothing back. She can sing and act with complete confidence. Her acting makes her totally believable as a person with questionable insanity with crazy eyes and just her little mannerisms make the character even stronger. She definitely should’ve won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
The other actor who impressed me with the limited screen time that he has is Johnny Depp as The Wolf. The character is supposed to be the “hustler” or “con man” of the woods with a sly smile and a coat full of (probably fake) jewelry. He never loses that coolness and charisma he uses to try to make Red Riding Hood stray from her path. I wish he was in the film a bit more, but I know that his part in the play is very minor. That being said, I wouldn’t like him as any other character.
I really enjoyed this film and it exceeded my expectations. In the past, musicals have been very back and forth for me (aside from Rogers & Hammerstein classics, of course), going from very good to not so great. Rob Marshall brought together a stellar cast with plenty of chemistry that successfully brought the story to the screen. Even though the sets felt very large to convey the size of the woods, they still held on to the idea that it could have been just as easily on stage. I’m glad this movie got all of the recognition that is deserves because it really is wonderful and worth seeing.
Meryl Streep as The Witch
Emily Blunt as The Baker’s Wife
James Corden as The Baker
Anna Kendrick as Cinderella
Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince
Tracey Ullman as Jack’s Mother
Christine Baranski as Cinderella’s Stepmother
Johnny Depp as The Wolf
Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood
Daniel Huttlestone as Jack
MacKenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel
Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel’s Prince
Tammy Blanchard as Florinda
Lucy Punch as Lucinda
The gorgeous 1080p AVC transfer for INTO THE WOODS is HD perfection. The details are distinct all the way down to the intricacies in the costumes. You can easily make out patterns and even individual strands of hair. Like The Wolf’s costume has small color changes in his fur coat and in some other transfers, that may get lost with contrasting issues but not here. The contrasting is spot-on with distinctive lines that keep the faces bright and the shadows decipherable.
Let’s talk about the color: There are certain items on each character that seem to stand out more than anything else. For example, Red-Riding Hood wears a brilliant red cloak that practically jumps off of the screen. Also, the skin tones are naturally warm and consistent in the film’s entirety. Lastly, the daytime scenes are vivid with lush foliage and capture the spirit that this is a story told in a rural kingdom. Disney does it again and shows that this is the way to author a Blu-ray.
Disney knows that for a musical, the audio has to be flawless and that’s exactly what they did. The audio track is a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix that sounds awesome. The score is one of the first things that caught my attention. The cellos are rich and deep with bass that can really be felt. On top of that, the woodwinds sound beautiful, contrasting the bass nicely. Both the dialogue and singing are clear and crisp. The voices and the score are separate and mixed well.
The ambient sounds of the woods encapsulate you to make the experience feel a bit more real. Also, there is so much directionality in the sound such as when the wind is moving all around the speakers. This marks another triumph for a Disney home release.
This release is packed with extras and they’re also informative. They touch on pretty much everything a fan would want to know about this movie. It even features two ways to enjoy the music.
-Audio Commentary with Director/Producer Rob Marshall and Producer John DeLuca: This commentary discusses everything from the inception of bringing this famous play to the big screen with everything in between.
-Streep Sings Sondheim: “She’ll Be Back”: This is a deleted song that was written by Stephen Sondheim for Meryl Streep.
-There’s Something About the Woods: This featurette is with the cast and crew with the topic being the woods. They discuss how the woods is practically a character being that so much happens there.
-The Cast as Good as Gold: This featurette is with Rob Marshall and the cast discussing all of the different facets of creating a film like this.
-Deeper Into the Woods:
This is a documentary broken in to four sections:
-“From Stage to Screen”
-“The Magic of the Woods”
-“Designing the Woods”
-“The Costumes of the Woods”
-Music & Lyrics: This bonus feature has two different options available: Viewing the movie with lyrics on the screen or you can jump to the individual song.
-Trailers and Previews
1 Blu-ray Disc
1080p AVC MPEG-4
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Mandarin (Simplified) CHECK
Like I said earlier, this film surprised me from the jump. Having been involved in stage acting in high school, I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for musicals and plays. This is possibly the best adaption of a musical from stage-to-screen in the last 30 years. The Blu-ray has stunning picture that may be categorized as reference and the audio is impeccable. Also, Disney didn’t skimp on the bonus features for the release. INTO THE WOODS is a film worth seeing, but I highly recommend just getting out there and buying it.