Hollywood@Home: Into the Woods

Meryl Streep and the gang sing their hearts out in the lackluster "Into the Woods."

Meryl Streep and the gang sing their hearts out in the lackluster “Into the Woods.”

Should a Broadway musical with bite be turned into a Disney family movie? If you answer yes, then “Into the Woods” may not disappoint. Composer Stephen Sondheim says he’s okay with the toning down of the adult themes in his musical fairy tale, penned by his collaborator, James Lapine. But, I felt lost in the woods, especially during the first half of the Disney musical.

“Into the Woods” combines the fairy tales “Cinderella” “Little Red Riding Hood” “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Rapunzel,” all written long ago by the brothers Grimm. The tales were created to entertain children and to scare them into understanding that actions have consequences. Sondheim and Lapine certainly understood that with their Broadway musical. But, something got lost on the way to the Magic Kingdom.

As characters are introduced in the opening half-hour or so, we get that Disney vibe. Sing and be cute. Any notion that the characters are about to make potentially fatal choices is smoothed over. Can’t you just sit back and enjoy the music, PC? Well, it’s not ALL about entertaining kids. “Into the Woods” could have used more of its Broadway chops.

What about the production values? There’s no doubt we’ve landed in a fairy tale world where anything can happen. The sets are magical and the cinematography is on the mark.

The singing voices are adequate, except for Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood. She sounds like an over modulated brat who just wrapped up a national tour of “Annie.” If Daddy Warbucks or Miss Hannigan appeared, it wouldn’t have surprised. Anna Kendrick as Cinderella has a nice voice. Meryl Streep looked confused at times. Not my idea of a great ensemble.

“Into the Woods” is a muddled adaptation designed to please family audiences, but ultimately confusing them by film’s end, if not sooner. A more grown-up approach would be better. Grade: C

Fast Facts:

Street Date: March 24, 2015

Formats: Blu-ray and DVD

Runtime: 125 minutes

Rated: “PG”

Released by Walt Disney Studios

Johnny Depp digs the younger chicks as the wolf in "Into the Woods."

Johnny Depp digs the younger chicks as the wolf in “Into the Woods.”