That’s the common refrain sang by the ensemble cast of characters in Rob Marshall’s big screen adaptation of “Into the Woods.” Unfortunately, it is also the refrain you will be saying hoping the second half of the film will wrap up.
Despite fears from fans of Stephen Sondheim’s musical that it would be completely changed and sanitized, the film is relatively true to the stage version. The wolf is still a pervy want to be child molester, while the baker’s wife still has a brief encounter with Cinderella’s prince. However, the difference is that these depictions are now played out with leaving a little bit to the imagination. Younger viewers may not fully understand what they are hearing, which is okay.
No, the film’s fault isn’t that it changes too much from the play, its flaw is that it stays too closely to the musical. The end of the show’s act one feels like a finale to the film, but viewers who aren’t familiar with the plot are in for a rude awakening when the movie continues for another 40 minutes as a giant terrorizes the land in its pursuit of Jack. During the time the tone of the film shifts and the playfulness that is abundantly evident in the early half of the film is gone. The transition is easy in the theater because the intermission serves as an adequate buffer between the two parts, however, Marshall doesn’t have that luxury in the film version and it’s a rocky change from act one to act two for the viewers and the characters alike.
Marshall does well to create a magical work on screen, with just enough twisting of the fairy tales to keep them fresh in a world already accustomed to re-imaginings like “Maleficent” and “Once Upon a Time.” He is aided by a top notch cast that includes Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, James Corden, and Emily Blunt. Johnny Depp shows up for a cameo as the Wolf, which is a nice enough change of pace for the actor who seems to play a variation on Captain Jack Sparrow in almost every role he does now. The weak link is Little Red Riding Hood, played by Lilla Crawford. At first Crawford plays the character as being just precious enough that she doesn’t come across as annoying. By the middle of the second act, the good will has worn off and both Red and Crawford begin to grate on your nerves.
“Into The Woods” finds itself in a peculiar predicament. While purists will be glad that they included the second act, though probably not fully happy due to a few missing pieces from the show, the average moviegoer is going to find the second half of the film to be tedious to sit through. Would the filmmakers have been better off doing just the first act of the show as the film? It’s hard to tell, but one thing is for sure, I won’t be going back into the woods if it means sitting through the second half again.