Into the Woods is the best live-action film Disney has ever done. Yes, I said that. It is a weird proposition to see on Laughing Place, especially after the mediocre review from Alex earlier in the month. I saw the film after I read his review, and I went in a little more tepid as I tend to agree with him (The Hundred Foot Journey is very underrated by everyone, I agree!), however I came out of the theater completely engrossed and wanting more.
Again, the plot takes place in a fairy tale land where all of the classic tales interact with each other. The Baker and his wife are on a mission to collect the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold…all to break a curse that will keep them child-less. The first two thirds of the film follow this journey and the ultimate “happily ever after” that comes with it. However, happy endings aren’t always what they seem, and events happen in the woods that create a different ending then one might expect.
The acting is exceptional, the lyrics by Stephen Sondheim are brilliant (and Tony Award winning!), and the extra stuff (hair, make-up, costumes, etc.) is stellar. Most everyone agrees with that. Most seem to enjoy the film until the 3rd act begins, mostly because it is a seemingly unhappy ending.
If I hear one more person state that Disney films must end with a happy ending, I am going to jump off the top of Splash Mountain, into the briar patch. The ending of Into the Woods isn’t as much a non-happy ending as much as it is a bittersweet one. I have seen the film 4 times so far, and the third act is far and away my favorite portion of the movie. This film tackles a life lesson that is usually over-looked in most fairy tales, Disney ones especially. Most recently, they have been tending to change the tales (a la Maleficent) by changing the journey, but having a similar ending. What Into the Woods does so brilliantly is show you that happy endings can happen, but life is a whole other beast. Awful and great things will happen in one’s life, and you must have to deal with it.
“No One is Alone” is a song that comes later in the film, but portrays the message perfectly. Everything one knows about life can be true and false at the same time. LIFE IS CRAZY! Things will get in your way, but you MUST outweigh the bad with the good. “You decide what’s right. You decide what’s good.”
This is such an amazing life lesson that I truly feel that kids, teens and adults need in their life, and one that isn’t usually described in films, especially in Disney ones. The last third pulled at my heartstrings, but in the best possible way. It is my favorite Disney film and film of the year for that exact reason. The lessons I am taught while watch are just as precious as the ones Cinderella describes to Little Red and the Baker describes to Jack.
I could not recommend this film more. Go see it. Bring the family. Talk about the film with your kids after. It is hidden “edutainment”.
P.S. Fanboy, I listened to the podcast…the woods is a metaphor! Just stepping into the forest doesn’t “change them”, it is their lives, their situations, their wishes that change them! Just had to let you know.