Into The Woods: Misunderstood film an above-average movie musical

Many audiences have left the Disney-produced fairy tale film, “Into the Woods,” disappointed and with little right to be.

Certainly, the studio is to fault for not clearing up the confusion surrounding the film. Too many people have left screenings surprised they just watched a musical and many others probably were in shock when the film doesn’t end with Cinderella’s marriage to the prince.

But moviegoers should have seen this coming.

The film, a clear adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 Broadway musical of the same name, is a darker intersection of several classic fairytales, including “Cinderella,” “Jack and the Giant Beanstalk” and “Little Red Riding Hood.”

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rightly rated “Into the Woods” PG “for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material.”

The film is more “Snow White and the Huntsman” than the animated classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”

Moviegoers, especially those expecting their money back, need to take more care in researching the content of a film before purchasing a ticket. Disney didn’t help matters with an ambiguous trailer promoting the film, but the studio can’t be held entirely responsible.

Setting aside those complaints, “Into the Woods” does a remarkable job of faithfully adapting Sondheim’s award-winning musical to the big screen.

Director Rob Marshall, best known for his work on the Academy Award-winning “Chicago,” is blessed with a talented cast led by “Pitch Perfect” star Anna Kendrick as Cinderella and British sensation James Corden as the narrating Baker.

The best performances in the film are actually given by the biggest — and youngest — unknowns with Broadway’s latest “Annie” Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood and Daniel Huttlestone, best known as Gavroche in Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables, as Jack.

It’s all too common to cast either actors who can’t sing well enough or worse yet, singers who can’t act well enough to be convincing.

What works in both performances, more so than any of their more famous counterparts, is that Crawford and Huttlestone maintain a balance in their responsibility both acting the part and singing the songs.

Huttlestone’s “Giants in the Sky” — along with Kendrick’s “On the Steps of the Palace” and Meryl Streep’s “Witch’s Lament” — is a musical highlight.

The film isn’t without its flaws. Chris Pine as Cinderella’s prince is largely overdone in a very William Shatner-esque way, which doesn’t really work throughout much of the film, but is quite hilarious within the shirt-ripping, water-splashing duet “Agony.”

Johnny Depp’s performance as the Wolf felt too campy, though the limited screen time helped prevent the film from veering too close to 2014 “Annie”-bad territory.

Overall, “Into the Woods” is a surprisingly darker, but satisfying retelling of classic fairy tales and a faithful interpretation of Sondheim’s musical worth seeing.

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