Into the Woods
Here's an an adaptation that renders something that was totally fun into something totally dreary. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's 1987 Broadway hit was a slightly sick, plucky wink at the audience, an almost mocking look at the dark side of Grimm's Fairy Tales. As captured in the 1991 American Playhouse broadcast starring Bernadette Peters, it was a 150-minute romp with an adult sense of humor. It was hardly the stuff of Disney. Director Rob Marshall has cut his film version to just over two hours, yet it feels twice as long. On stage, the music of Into the Woods was perky, tightly choreographed, consistently funny and almost frantic. In the movie, most of the songs just fart along. The singers search for the emotive, warm, soulful qualities in Sondheim and Lapine's musical. The problem with that is the original musical didn't really emphasize those qualities. It was more of an intelligent, operatic goof, not a feel-good musical. Meryl Streep has some good moments as The Witch, but that's about it when it comes to anything good to say about this endeavor. Johnny Depp shows up for a few minutes as The Wolf in a stupid outfit that makes him look more feline than canine. His “Hello, Little Girl,” a song that is supposed to be rife with innuendo, sounds more like an animal who just wants to eat some food. Marshall and Depp give the number a slow, crooning presentation, taking away its former jaunty, obnoxious edge. It's just wrong.