Review: 'Into the Woods' needs more than Meryl Streep to rejuvenate moribund fairytale characters

December 23, 2014 11:16 AM

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The woods represents the unknown. It’s a dark and mysterious place, where one can easily get lost, frightened or start believing a rustling of leaves is something very, very stupid, like bigfoot or mothman. It’s where familiar fairytale figures bump into each other and sing in “Into the Woods,” Disney’s big-screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 Broadway musical. Directed by Rob Marshall, the film believes it’s quite clever. So much so, I’m not sure it’s about anything more than diverting whatever expectations we have of Red Riding Hood, Jack (of “and the Beanstalk” fame), Cinderella and other classic characters.

The primary idea here is, the unexpected can happen in the woods, especially one existing in an anything-goes magical neverwhere: A sad “kitchen wench” can find a prince, a vain old witch can find youth, a boy can find a bean that births a stalk a jillion miles high. The characters here venture to t...

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