Last night I took a group of kids ranging in age from 10-13 to see Into the Woods. My thoughts on the movie are below, roughly divided into two sections: thoughts during and immediately following watching and later after I read a few other reviews and looked up info about its source material. Caution: spoilers!

Initial thoughts: The songs were fantastic!

The kids I took were confused by the part in the story when Prince Charming and the Baker’s Wife kiss.

Well, who wouldn’t be?

There was a bit of foreshadowing for this (e.g. “A Very Nice Prince” performed by Cinderella and the Baker’s Wife) but not much. I kept thinking that if the storytellers were going to go down that road then I needed to see how horrible the relationship between the Baker and his wife was — bc it wasn’t! The only reason I went along with this plot point was bc of the Baker’s Wife’s line: “This is ridiculous. What am I doing here? I’m in the wrong story” which alerted me to the fact that the story was about to go off the rails.

At the time, I thought that making the Baker’s Wife “sin” was a story choice made to make her less sympathetic, which then made her necessary death less sad.

(Despite the Baker’s Wife’s faults, I thought she was a sympathetic character. I thought her death was necessary bc it had to happen in order for her husband to have that moment when he decided to be a better father than his father had been when he had abandoned him.

I also wondered if the storytellers thought the Baker’s Wife had it coming to her even BEFORE she kissed Prince Charming. After all, she was the one who lied to Jack about getting Milky White back, cut and stole Rapunzel’s hair, and attacked Cinderella. Not that I think death should be the consequence of those things, but it was a fairy tale after all. And fairy tales ALWAYS have extreme consequences for poor decisions. Isn’t *that* their true purpose? 😉 )

But I came to think that what that scene was REALLY about was “be careful what you wish for.” (Duh).

Later thoughts: The movie’s screenplay was written by James Lapine based on the Tony-award winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, a version of which is still playing off-Broadway at the Laura Pels Theater. My understanding (based on what I read, partial list of links below) is that the playwrights took a bunch of fairy tales, mashed them up in a great big ball (Act I) and then exploded them (Act II) in order to explore various themes: wish fulfillment, growing up/path to maturity, parents and children, blame, responsibility, and HEA versus reality.


STAGE VIEW: Sondheim’s Winding Paths

INTO THE WOODS: Into the Words

Disney Is Officially Destroying Into the Woods

Did Disney Take All the Bite out of Into the Woods?

How Disney Wrecked Into the Woods

How Hollywood drains the subversion out of Into the Woods

[Geesh, enough already with the downer headlines… it’s worth seeing, people!]

The Wolf: he felt creepy to me and not in the way I like (it wasn’t a fun creepy; it was an icky creepy). After reading up on the source material, and discovering that the Wolf and Prince Charming are often played by the same actor (bc both characters are unscrupulous and predatory), I got why the Wolf and his scene with Little Red Riding Hood made me feel uncomfortable. I’ve liked Johnny Depp in the past but can’t say I was in favor of the choice to use him for the part of the Wolf. It would take more time and hubris than I have to say how I might have fixed the problem of adapting this part of the story.

Bottom line: I LOVED the songs. And there were some lines that were so comical and self-aware they made me laugh out loud. I liked the movie and want to see it again, especially now that I know more about it. Younger kids may be confused by some parts. (Heck, I was confused by some parts). This was a story made to be told in one medium (Broadway play) that lost something when it was translated into another (Disney movie). But as Sondheim himself put it: “censorship is part of our puritanical ethics.” If you want to “sell your painting or perform your musical [, y]ou have to deal with reality.”

Hmm… maybe Sondheim’s shrug over the changes to his story was because one of the play’s main themes was reality versus fairy tale…?

In any case, seeing the film and reading about its adaptation is a must for anyone who is into that kind of thing (which I hope includes a lot of you!)

I’m sure my analysis is lacking. I could spend a week or more looking into this and thinking about it. But I had less than a day. How about you? Have you seen it? What do you think?

p.s. where was Prince Charming’s just reward? Was Cinderella leaving him enough? The Baker’s Wife died. Did he get his comeuppance in the play? (I don’t think so…. But then again I don’t think the play’s point was that life is fair.)

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Jill Archer

Jill Archer is the author of the Noon Onyx series, genre-bending fantasy novels including DARK LIGHT OF DAY, FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, and POCKET FULL OF TINDER.

4 thoughts on “INTO THE WOODS: My Thoughts

  1. One of the things to know about the stage version of Into the Woods is that it is a LONG play in two parts. The movie had to take out quite a bit to fit into a cinematic time frame. It is the kind of story where you will see new things every time you watch it.

    1. I agree. The staged play had a lot more scenes that made things like the Baker’s Wife and the Prince kissing more plausible. Also, the bit with the Wolf being so icky creepy felt even more so in the movie because “Little” Red Riding Hood was supposed to be older and the scene was an allusion to her first sexual experience. It’s still creepy (especially when you take his talking of having both RRH and her grandmother), but it’s less pedophilia-creepy.

      That said, I enjoyed the movie take on the story. I think you have to allow for some “loss in translation” when a story becomes Disneyfied. But I would be more comfortable taking my daughter to see the movie than the play at this time (she’s only 7).

      1. Aquarian Dancer—Good point. I think one of the writers linked to above suggested, instead of so many cuts to Act II (which resulted in audience confusion), the problematic Wolf could be cut. But w/o the Wolf, Red’s story falls apart and her story was an integral part of the four connecting stories.

        Yes! Lots to think about, which is why I liked it. I think I also read that the original version of the play can be streamed on Netflix, but I couldn’t find it. (Also searched Hulu and Xfinity). May have to just buy DVD from PBS or Amazon…

        Fairytale Feminista—“I think you have to allow for some ‘loss in translation’ when a story becomes Disneyfied.” Too true. I thought last night after posting, how funny is it that, in regards to Sondheim’s quote on censorship, that his “fairy tale” was his subversive play and his “reality” is a Disney movie. Ha! Good stuff.

        Thanks for the comments. Enjoy your week!

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