Into The Woods DVD Review

DVD Review by Jon E Clist
Into The Woods

The Premise
As the result of the curse of a once-beautiful witch (Streep), a baker (Corden) and his wife (Blunt) are childless. Three days before the rise of a blue moon, they venture into the forest to find the ingredients that will reverse the spell and restore the witch's beauty: a milk-white cow, hair as yellow as corn, a blood-red cape, and a slipper of gold. During their journey, they meet Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack, each one on a quest to fulfill a wish.

The Review
Not everyone likes musicals. Well that kind of goes without saying doesn’t it? One of the reasons that I think some people really don’t like them, is due to the unnatural element of just breaking into song at any given stage. Feeling sad… sing about it, feeling happy sing about it also… go for a walk… sing about it and so on. Yet there have been plenty of memorable and enjoyable musicals turned into films over the years, such as GreaseLes MisWestside Story and so on. One of these adaptations is Rob Marshall’s version of Chicago. So I guess when you consider that you can’t help but have high hopes for Into The Woods. That being said, he is also the director responsible for the cinematic adaptation of the best-selling book Memoirs of a Geisha, which despite being a visually stunning film, the storyline and character portrayals made it really hard to actually care about the characters and plot.

That being said I think it comes back to the source material in regards to musicals. The story needs to emotionally draw you in to the plight of the protagonists, while the songs need to be catchy and singable. You really want to leave the cinema wanting to sing the songs. While the story in itself is okay, the merging of many stories makes it hard to hang your hat a specific character and want them to succeed.

Then there is the songs. I found it super hard to fault the songs because the performances of them are good and in some cases pretty darn good. Meryl Streep is her usual brilliant and it is good to see her in the role of a witch. She admitted on Good Morning America that she received many offers to play witches throughout her career and turned them down, but was compelled to this character due to composer Stephen Sondheim. Which I do feel is a little bit of irony as I don’t feel the songs were that strong to begin with. For me the saving grace here is the performances by this all-star cast.

There are actors here that we know can sing and others that we can be pleasantly surprised at. Such as Chris Pine. According to Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine was extremely shy about his singing voice and noted that he would hold back during rehearsals. She only heard his actual singing voice when she was eating lunch in the recording studio. She was in a room by herself and she heard a "beautiful, crooning voice" coming from the hallway, but she assumed that it was a singer from a different project since multiple records were being recorded in the studio. She then noticed that the singing wasn't stopping, so she poked her head out to see who it was. To her surprise, she discovered that it was Pine, who didn't know that there was anybody else there. Within the film Pine steals the show (In my opinion) with the help of Billy Magnussen. Both play Princes and end up having a little “Prince-off” at a stream as they try to out Charm each other to great comedic success.

Then of course there is a great performance by Daniel Huttlestone as Jack. Here is a kid who has had a brilliant start in cinematic musicals having a brilliant debut in the recent film adaptation of Les Miserables. Plus I should point out that Johnny Depp plays an amazing Wolf.

The cast is great and this film looks amazing. From the sets, locations through to beautiful costumes, what a visual pleasure to watch. For me, these positives outweighed the story and song holes.

The Verdict
For those who enjoy a good musical, I think that you will well and truly enjoy this cinematic adaptation of the stage production. Great performances from a stellar cast cover over the plot lapses and lack of memorable songs.

The Trailer

The Info
DVD Releases: 6th May 2015
Rating: PG – Contains violence and coarse language
Duration: 125 minutes 
Genre:  Musical fantasy
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Lilla Crawford and Daniel Huttlestone
Director: Rob Marshall (Chicago)

The Extras
According to Anna Kendrick, the set pieces used for the woods were so big and realistic that she and Chris Pine actually got lost while on the sound stage and had to be rescued by a production assistant.

At a Q&A session after screening of the film, James Corden recalled an incident during rehearsals in which Meryl Streep jumped on a table and her foot got caught in her costume. She started falling backwards, head first, toward a concrete floor. Both Corden and director Rob Marshall froze in the fear that they were about to witness the death of Meryl Streep. However, Emily Blunt stepped in and caught Streep before she hit the floor.

Because director Rob Marshall prefers to use CGI or green screens as little as possible, Chris Pine had to stand in the background completely still and silent for two entire days of filming during Anna Kendrick's performance of 'On the Steps of the Palace'.

Emily Blunt portrays a woman who is unable to have a child in the film. Ironically, Blunt was actually pregnant during filming. This resulted in multiple different techniques to hide her pregnancy.

According to Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine was extremely shy about his singing voice and noted that he would hold back during rehearsals. She only heard his actual singing voice when she was eating lunch in the recording studio. She was in a room by herself and she heard a "beautiful, crooning voice" coming from the hallway, but she assumed that it was a singer from a different project since multiple records were being recorded in the studio. She then noticed that the singing wasn't stopping, so she poked her head out to see who it was. To her surprise, she discovered that it was Pine, who didn't know that there was anybody else there.

In earlier drafts, the essential Narrator character from the original stage musical was still part of the story. Before the role was written out of the script, many actors were either considered, in talks, or asked to play the role including Jeremy Irons, Christopher Plummer, Geoffrey Rush, James Earl Jones, John Cleese, Michael Caine, Michael Gambon, and Alan Rickman. There were even rumors about giving this role to a female such as Julie Andrews or Angela Lansbury who are both Disney favorites as well as experts on Stephen Sondheim's material.

Chris Pine wasn't aware of the original Into the Woods play, but wanted to audition just based on the cast and the director. On the night before his singing audition, he decided to google the play and to his horror, found pages of fan message boards and comments, along with passionate positive reviews of the play and Broadway show. This made him so nervous that he didn't sleep at all that night and even briefly considered cancelling the meeting with Rob Marshall.


Meryl Streep admitted on Good Morning America (1975) that she received many offers to play witches throughout her career and turned them down, but was compelled to this character due to composer Stephen Sondheim.