Plot: What’s it about?
Many familiar characters are featured in Into the Woods. Some of these memorable characters include Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel. Their fates become intertwined when a baker and his wife try to reverse a curse set by a witch (Meryl Streep). Anna Kendrick plays Cinderella and she fears that her real identity will be revealed if she doesn’t leave. The baker and his wife are played by James Corden and Emily Blunt, respectively. The film has many characters and plot elements, so it’s needless to say that it throws us into its world right away. There’s not a lot of fluff here (Peter Jackson should take a cue). You will also see Cinderella’s evil stepmother as well as her stepsisters. Prince Charming is played by none other than Chris Pine and he (as well as the rest of the cast) handle the material well. Streep is obviously having a great time here. Anna Kendrick wouldn’t have been my first choice, but she does OK. I think she’s a fine actress, but I didn’t always buy her as Cinderella.
It’s clear to see there’s a lot going on in the film, and I haven’t even touched on the singing yet. Since I really can’t stand musicals, it’s easy to see why the songs did little for me. I actually did enjoy Kendrick in Pitch Perfect as I felt the songs were fun and catchy (as was that film), but I was tempted to turn on mute more than a few times here. It should also be noted that the film turns quite dark in the last half. Make no mistakes, this is still a Disney movie, but those wanting a lighter film should seek elsewhere. Also worth mentioning is that the film runs far too long. At times it feels like it will never end and the repetition kicks in. I was anxious for the end credits to roll before long. The effects are nice, but that can only carry you so far. Not to mention that a point comes where once we’ve seen one special effects adventure, we’ve seen them all. Still, for the intended audience, I think the film will have its fans. I didn’t particularly care for it, but fans of musicals and fantasy films of this sort should enjoy it.
Video: How’s it look?
With a title like Into the Woods, you’d assume that the film would have a darker tone to it. You’d be correct. The 2.39:1 AVC HD image is dark, though it’s so crystal clear that it’s hard to picture this movie looking bad. Each of the characters have their own look and feel, be it the perpetual five o’clock shadow by Prince Charming or the porcelain skin of Red Riding Hood. Check out the whiskers on the wolf, the architecture of Cinderella’s house or the texture in the beanstalk. I trust the point has been made. Contrast is rock solid providing a beautiful-looking film and a real treat to watch on Blu-ray.
Audio: How’s it sound?
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when putting this disc in and having never seen the show on stage, had no idea at the amount of songs that were included within. Still, the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is robust when it needs to be and ever so delicate when the occasion presents itself. Vocals are rich and crisp, we hear the songs in the utmost clarity which really does make for a wonderful auditory experience. Surrounds are just active enough to increase the depth of the mix and the LFE even get a bit of “screen time.” All in all it’s a near perfect mix that’s sure to delight.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Disney has wisely loaded this disc with supplements and it really does round out a pretty good package. Let’s see what’s in store.
- Audio Commentary – Director Rob Marshall, who won Best Director for 2002’s Chicago, seems right at home here. He, together with Producer John DeLuca comment on the set design of the film, the cast and working with material produced by Stephen Sondheim. It’s not the greatest track out there, but fans will certainly like what’s covered.
- There’s Something about the Woods – A sort of all-encompassing EPK with various members of the cast and crew discussing the film, some of the songs and set design. We get some behind the scenes footage to boot.
- Deleted Song – Meryl Streep sings “She’ll Be Back”, sung after Rapunzel decided to leave.
- The Cast as good as Gold – Pretty much that – an overall look at the cast and the effort put into the film with the singing, etc.
- Deeper Into the Woods – A four part segment that covers some of the bases not covered by the features above.
From Stage to Screen
The Magic of the Woods
Designing the Woods
The Costumes of the Woods
The Bottom Line
I can admire the cast and the craft behind the film, but outside of that, it did little for me. Indeed, I am not the target audience for this sort of thing. Fans of these characters and of musicals will likely get more out of this than me. The Blu-ray delivers top notch audio and video quality with a smattering of extras that make this purchase a no-brainer (to the true fans, that is).