Just like superhero movies a decade earlier, fairy tale films have seen a huge resurgence in recent years, undoubtedly a result of the technological advances that make it possible to create completely otherworldly settings and creatures with the help of computers. As a result we have seen a lot of movies based on classic fairy tales, along with mash-ups that throw together elements and stories, mix them up in a wild stew and then bring them to the screen in the hopes that it would entertain moviegoers.
Disney’s latest effort, “Into The Woods” belongs into this latter category, as it mixes elements from various traditional fairy tales. As a result we get see Little Red Riding Hood mingle with Cinderella, meet up with Rapunzel and Jack with his magic beans that grow int enormous beanstalks and bring forth the giants. If this sounds like an episode from “Once Upon A Time,” your not too far off, because it’s not all that different.
However, to set the film apart, Disney decided to turn into a musical of all things, and so as you venture forth to experience this colorful fairy tale world, you are constantly accompanied by characters relaying their thoughts in song. While this, by itself is not a bad thing, sadly, the music of “Into The Woods” is often a disruptive staccato with lyrics that are more rapping than singing, coming across as entirely unbefitting to the world the film tries to transport us into. As with”Frozen” before, the songwriters also tried much too hard to create sophisticated songs, oftentimes abandoning melody and harmony for music theory. Too often it comes across like a Julliard graduate showing off while trying his hand at writing pop music, missing the mark entirely.
While featuring a pretty cool cast on the whole, we’re back to theory again. Without a decent script, no matter how elite the menagerie of actors is, a film will fall apart, and “Into The Woods” does fall apart in many places. While the overall plot is nicely mashing up the different stories it sources from, it is the characterizations that don’t really work. With no depth to speak off, these characters are ultimately no more than Disney cartoon characters brought to life in the dark woods. There should be suspense in places and a sense of foreboding as evil characters do their heinous work, but it’s not really coming through. Instead, there’s a good bit of comedy sprinkled in to remind viewers that this is still a Disney family affair we are watching, and as a result. on the whole, “Into The Woods” sadly does not really deliver on the promise to be an enchanting fairy tale that captivates you. Adaptations, such as “The Brothers Grimm” do a much better job at that, in my opinion.
But not all is lost in the woods. The movie does have striking visuals and does a magnificent job, bringing the fairy tales to life in opulent images in front of wonderful backdrops. There is nothing wrong with just sitting back and letting the film wash over you, getting lost in the polished charm of it all and just going along with it. The cast does a solid job bringing to life what little characterization there is in the script, creating a rounded, yet unremarkable movie altogether.
The release offers up a pristine 1080p high definition transfer on this Blu-Ray Disc, bringing out every little detail in the production. Not a hint of image information is lost and with is strong, vibrant colors and the deep blacks, the image is full of contrast and shadows that never break up. It is beautiful to behold and very stylish at that.
The film is accompanied by a DTS 7.1 HD Master Audio track that is top notch, to say the least. It makes aggressive use of the surround channels to create a wide sound filed that is constantly bustling with activity and makes ceaseless use of the discrete surround channels. The bass extension is bombastic, driving home many of the more powerful scenes of the film with rumbles and a low end that will definitely give your home theater set up some work to do. Dialogues are perfectly integrated and always remain intelligible, no matter how busy the ambient effects get.
The release also features a number of bonus materials, such as the never-before-seen song “She’ll Be Back”, performed by Meryl Streep.
Naturally, the release also contains a number of promo featurettes, allowing the cast and crew members to talk about their characters and their experience making the film. Complemented by a four-part featurette about the making of the film, these pieces will give you a look behind the scenes, without going into all too much detail. It is your standard fare, really, without any true highlights.
A commentary track is also included, as well as the ability to jump to each song in the film directly. Although not offering a DVD as part of the package, the release does contain a DigitalHD version that does thankfully include an iTunes downloadable.
“Into The Woods” is definitely watchable and enjoyable, but it is by no means the film it could have been. Somehow it lacks heart and depth and is a constant reminder how glossy, yet shallow, many Disney productions have become over the years. It is not without its charms, but at the same time it doesn’t really go beyond a one-time viewing. Despite its technical prowess, you may want to add this to your to-rent list instead of committing to a blind purchase.