Into The Woods: Review / by Kenneth Buff

I really didn't have great expectations for this film. I went into it just wanting a little distraction from the laundry I needed to be doing at home. I was pleasantly surprised with the first two thirds of the movie. It proved to be both smart, and funny without trying to portray its self as something more than just a collection of children's stories. 

Woods is a musical, so if that bothers you, than you shouldn't see this movie. Almost all dialogue is done through song, and it's generally rather endearing, and sometimes funny, as when the two Prince Charming's are arguing (while dancing and singing) over whose agony is more agonizing: the guy who can't get Cinderella, or the guy who can't get Rapunzel. It's the best number in the film. 

Throughout the movie there are references to the grim beginnings of what now are considered to be "Disney stories" (most of them started off as folk stories told by the Brothers Grimm). These references provide a nice bit of adult humor, and keeps it from being a dull affair. Really, these types of jokes are told pretty often, and raise this film from simply a kid movie to border line adult satire. It doesn't completely make it up there with the Mel Brooks comedies, but it's the closest thing that has in years, and coming from a Disney film, that's quite surprising. 

My only real complaint is that the film is simply too long. In the beginning it moves at a breakneck pace. The story is developed and presented to the audience very much like a play would be (which works well here), but then it almost screeches to a halt when a second villain shows up at the end of the film. Here Woods decides it has some moral lessons to teach us, which feel completely out of sync with what the rest of the film had been doing, which was providing the audience with a little care free fun and a bit of smart satire that poked at the Disney brand. The final act wants to be more like Les Mis than Robin Hood: Men In Tights, which is a shame, because I think the first half of this movie is something Mel Brooks could get behind. It's too bad the writers couldn't stick with their guns all the way through. I'd say it's still worth seeing if you're looking for something more grown up than Hunger Games but not as serious or dramatic as the grown up movies playing in the theater right now. If you're just looking for a light, mostly fun affair, than this is a pretty safe bet.