Into The Woods Movie Review

Shove over, Bergen! I need to vent! I just wrote a review for the movie, Into The Woods by Stephen Sondheim.  I grew up with the movie starring Bernadette Peters and have seen two live versions one of which was done by Ithaca College. The other was on an off-Broadway show in New York. My review was written for those who love the play and are wanting to see the movie. Although I mark the spoilers, keep this in mind.

Here is my say on this movie.

In short: Disney took a play that explores a philosophical topic and made it for kids. Disney dumbed it down, stripped most of the comedy, and made it for children. If you love the play, wait for the DVD.

Now, the long version.

The cinematics were STUNNING. All of the humor from this play comes from the lines.  Every one of those lines were purposely delivered to not be funny.  That’s right, they took a philosophical comedy and made it into a serious children’s fairy tale. I laughed twice (as opposed to, say 80 times in the play). The song “Agony” was better in this version than the Bernadette Peter’s edition because… well, I’m no spoiler. The song “Agony” made the movie worth watching. I will be buying this movie JUST for this edition of “Agony”. Merryl Streep (I have no idea how to spell her name) was stunning and on par with Peters’ performance. I’m not saying Streep isn’t competent. I’m saying that Peter’s was THAT GOOD.

This was the first time I enjoyed the song, “Steps of The Palace”. They took advantage of Hollywood’s “time magic” and you actually saw the pitch on the steps while Cinderella stood on the steps of the palace and debated what to do next.  One other thing, I did love about the movie: The movie explains why the Prince is giving a “festival… and a ball” back to back. In the play, Prince Charming comes off as just some one who throws frequent parties, while the movie stops to say, “It is a three day festival. The Prince is looking for a wife.”

In Disney’s version, they cut the song “No More”, which is kind of the whole point of the play, but okay! I hope this song made it in the director’s cut and will probably buy the director’s cut for this reason.

The “Narrator” and “Old Man” are cut. The Narrator was there, but in omniscient view only. The dialogue and song lyrics were changed to be politically correct and all repeated songs were cut. (For those who don’t know, Into the Woods has two acts and there are repeated songs with completely different lyrics for both acts, Agony being one of them. The second Agony song was cut).

They Disney-tized it! This came to a surprise to me because I didn’t realize Disney was the producer. 50% of those who die in the play live in the movie. All “murders” are changed to “accidents” and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty were cut for PC reason.


(In the play, Cinderella’s and Rapunzel’s Princes have affairs and “cheat” on the princesses for in depth philosophical reasons that I explain in a moment).


Rapunzel’s character was completely overhauled to mirror Tangled’s Rapunzel.


I have so much more to say about this movie, but… *insert frustrated sigh here* I love Sondheim and know that he wrote the Witch’s role for Bernadette Peters whose voice he LOVES. I don’t know why Peters wasn’t given the role and that really upsets me. I had high expectations for Streep going in. You must understand, both women are masters of their art and are equals, but this role belongs to Peters, so I was very pleased with Streep’s interpretation. I love the actress who played Rapunzel. I did love the changes they made to Rapunzel.


In the play, Rapunzel has twins and Sondheim (heheheee…) gives Rapunzel every psychological disorder that comes with being locked in a tower for 20 years then exiled in a wilderness after bearing twins. She is an emotional, bi-polar new mother with post-partum depression. LOL It’s all cut from the movie. No twins, no psyche disorders and she lives happily ever after.

Into The Woods has a deep philosophy to it. And this is where I really was upset with the movie. In the play, there is a narrator. The actor for the Narrator always doubles as The Old Man. The Old Man is really the Baker’s run-away father. In the play, the giant who Jack kills (from Jack and the Beanstalk) is avenged by the giant’s wife. You watch the play with the Narrator in full control UNTIL the characters turn on the Narrator and kill him. Because the Narrator dies, “no one knows the story”.
“Well, maybe some of us don’t like the way you’ve been telling it” says The Witch to the Narrator.
They kill him and you have a collection of characters suddenly without a writer. That is really what Into The Woods is about. Characters who lost their writer. The moment that Narrator dies, half the cast gets themselves killed because there is no director, no story teller to guide them.
“What am I doing here? This isn’t happening. I’m in the wrong story.” is sung by the Baker’s wife when she crosses into Cinderella’s story and starts making out with her prince. This line is still in the movie, but its meaning is COMPLETELY lost because of the changes Disney made to the Narrator.
These “characters” now have to find their one way.
“You must remember that these are people not used to making decisions” the Narrator says to the audience moments before the characters realize they can give the Narrator to the giant in hopes to appease her. Most of this scene is cut. The movie removes this aspect from the play and with it all philosophical meaning is lost and that beautiful pensive depth that fans of Into The Woods expect. That’s right. They dumbed it down. THIS is what I hated about the movie. They add insult to injury by cutting the song “No More”.

About the Author: Anna Imagination

Biographical Info... What you seek is my Story. Every Soul is a "Blurb" as one would read on the back of the book. But can people be "unwrapped" so easily? Most importantly, why try? I have long since learned to preserve the Savory that comes with Discovery. Learning of another Soul is a Journey. It is an Exploration. And it does not do the Soul Justice to try and condense a Soul Journey into a Bio.