Film / Into the Woods

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"Oh, if life were made of moments,
Even now and then a bad one!
But if life were only moments,
Then you'd never know you had one."
The Baker's Wife

Into the Woods is a 2014 film adaptation of the critically acclaimed James Lapine/Stephen Sondheim musical of the same name. Under the direction of Rob Marshall (who had previously worked on Chicago and the 1999 Made-for-TV adaptation of Annie respectively), the film features an All-Star Cast led by Meryl Streep (the Witch), James Corden (the Baker), Emily Blunt (the Baker's Wife), Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), and Chris Pine (Cinderella's Prince), And Starring Johnny Depp (the Wolf). It also features newcomer Lilla Crawford (who had starred in the recent Broadway revival of Annie) as Little Red, and Daniel Huttlestone (of Les Miserables fame) as Jack. The film was released on Christmas Day, 2014, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios.

Set in a far off kingdom near the woods, the story follows a childless baker and his wife, who were cursed with infertility by a vengeful witch. One day, however, the witch offers to reverse the curse if the pair brings her four items: the cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold. Determined to end the curse, the couple, along with several famous fairy tale characters, ventures into the woods to achieve their wish, completely unaware of the consequences that will befall them due to their actions.

The film retools some of the story's content to make the film slightly shorter than the stage play, with especially the second act containing some departures from the source material. It should also be noted that all of the changes were personally approved by Sondheim himself, and original stage writer Lapine himself adapted the musical to the screen as the film's screenwriter.

In addition to the tropes covered in the musical, the film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Downplayed, but Jack's mother repeatedly hits him and yells at him.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: A rather minor case with Jack, who develops a bit of angst due to his mother's treatment.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: While Milky-White is traditionally portrayed as pure white on stage, here she has a few black spots.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Rapunzel's Prince, contrasting his brother's Adaptational Villainy. It's clear that he truly loves Rapunzel, and he stays faithful to her for the entire film (unlike his stage show counterpart, who tosses her aside during their marriage to pursue Snow White). He's even willing to go out and search for Rapunzel while blind.
    • A small case for the steward. In the stage show he kills Jack's mother by clubbing her over the head. In this, he only pushes her to the ground and she hits her head off a log. He's shown to instantly regret it as well.
    • One moment for the Witch. In most productions when Rapunzel chooses to stay with her prince, the Witch tries to attack both of them. In the film, she only goes for the prince and even pulls Rapunzel back.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: Rapunzel is actually the Baker's long lost sister, having been taken by the witch when he was a toddler. The Baker never finds this out in the stage show, and it's the same case here. The Plot Hole comes from the fact that the Narrator is a separate character in the stage show. For convenience purposes the Baker also serves as the Narrator in the film. And the film ends with the Baker narrating the story to his newborn son. But since he never finds out Rapunzel is his sister, it begs the question of how he knows this in narration.note 
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Because Rapunzel's Prince's affair with Snow White was cut, he comes across as less of an unlikable womanizer. He's still boastful, but his interactions with Rapunzel are sweet and Adorkable at times.
    • Likewise Rapunzel herself is The Ophelia in the play. None of these traits show up in the film and she doesn't commit suicide by running into the Giantess.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Cinderella's Prince. At least in the musical he had nine plus months to get bored with married life; here he turns around and cheats on Cinderella with the Baker's Wife practically the day after their wedding!
    • The Witch also comes off worse in the adaptation, as her warnings to Rapunzel (who apparently survives) about the dangers of the world come to naught, taking away the (thin) justification for having kept her locked up but "safe" all those years. She also seems more villainous for wanting to turn over a younger Jack over to the Giantess, compared to the older versions of Jack seen onstage, and also because she doesn't have the trauma of having watched Rapunzel get squashed by the giantess to drive her over the edge into despair..
  • Adapted Out:
    • The Narrator. The majority of his lines are now said by the Baker through a voice over. (This works in favor of the film's ending.) Cinderella's drunkard father is also said to have passed away shortly after marrying her stepmother. And, for obvious reasons, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty don't get their cameos like in the musical; Cinderella's Prince is still a cad, but Disney probably didn't want to make two of their leading ladies into The Mistress.
    • Rapunzel's twins were cut. They wouldn't make sense in the compressed time-frame, contributed little to the plot, and disappeared during Act Two.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
  • Adaptation Expansion: The film features scenes that are implied in the musical but not shown, such as Jack cutting down the beanstalk and killing the giant. Word of God confirms at one point there would have been scenes planned with Jack in the Sky Kingdom and Cinderella meeting her prince at the festival early in production.
  • Adorkable: Rapunzel's prince during "Agony" where he's trying to out-ham his older brother. Also his failed attempt at a Tarzan-esque swing out of Rapunzel's tower. Luckily for him, she finds it Adorkable too.
  • Advertised Extra: Johnny Depp as the Wolf. Despite receiving major credit in the promotions and trailers, the character's only in two scenes.
  • Age Lift:
    • Due to casting Meryl Streep, the Witch is older than she was in most versions of the stage show. Notably in the stage show, the character is usually played by an actress in make-up to make her appear older - and when she transforms into her beautiful self the actress just removes the make-up. Streep meanwhile commented that it took more make-up for her to appear younger.
    • A partial example. Although Jack and Red Riding Hood are children in the story, they're usually played by teenagers or young adults acting like children. Here they're played by actual children.
  • All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": Rapunzel survives (at least on-screen).
    • Or more likely, halfway through the story It looks like everyone's going to live Happily Ever After, right before everything goes to hell.
  • Anachronism Stew: This applies to the entire film's wardrobe: the filmmakers didn't want the fairy tale world presented in the film to reflect an actual time period, so inspiration ranged from the Victorian Era (the Baker and his wife) to 1930s book illustrations (Red's appearance) to the late eighteenth century fashions of Cinderella, her stepmother and stepsisters. The Wolf's 40's era zoot suit stands out in particular, and the blind stepsisters wear sunglasses, which were first produced around the same time period.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The whole Aesop of the story.
  • Big Entrance: When the Witch enters the Baker's house, she blasts the door off its hinges with her magic.
  • Bigger on the Inside: During "I Know Things Now", a flashback shows Little Red plunging into the Wolf's belly, which appears to be the size of a large pit. Since the song is portrayed as a story that she tells the Baker, this could be interpreted as being part of her imagination. On the other hand she and her grandmother were both alive and intact inside its stomach, and the wolf is only human size, so this has to be at least somewhat the case.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Cinderella gains this towards Jack and Little Red Riding Hood, instinctively comforting them and protecting them during the Giantess's rampage. It's also Red who wants Cinderella to come live with them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jack's mother, Red's family, and the Baker's wife are dead. Cinderella has left her philandering prince. The Witch is either dead or gone off to parts unknown, and much of the country has been destroyed by the giantess stomping around. The Baker even never gets to meet his long-lost sister, Rapunzel, even though his wife did. But Jack, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, the Baker, and his child are alive, and all of them have emotionally matured and plan to become a family. Also, unlike the stage show, Rapunzel and her prince presumably survive and stay together.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The three main female fairytale leads respectively; Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood and Cinderella. To clear up confusion, Red Riding Hood is a dark brown, and Cinderella is a light brown substituting redhead.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends with a shot of the sky, as well as the narration starting the story over.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • The scene where the Baker's wife and Cinderella's Prince cheat on their spouses is left intact, but is made slightly less suggestive than it was in the original stage musical.
    • The Steward no longer bludgeons Jack's Mother with his staff. Rather, he pushes her down and unintentionally causes her head to bash against a log (he's also noticeably more remorseful and shocked at what he had done). We also never see the impact, and she dies off screen rather than in the Baker's arms.
    • The scene in which Cinderella's Stepmother cuts up her daughters' feet is altered so that we never see it done on screen.
    • Subverted with the Wolf. In the original play, the Wolf has a fake rubber penis with no pants. The Disney movie adaptation didn't include it, but there was still a sexual vibe in his voice, actions, and facial expressions during "Hello Little Girl." The added pimp suit and the fact that Johnny Depp plays the Wolf just puts more gasoline on the fire.
    • In the original musical, we actually see the Baker cut open the Wolf after he eats Little Red and Granny. In the film, the scene cuts right before the impact.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Averted due to the absence of the Narrator.
  • Brick Joke: When the Baker's Wife insists that she needs Cinderella's slipper to have a child, Cinderella says that that doesn't make any sense. Then, during the wedding, when Cinderella and her Prince are riding in the carriage, the Baker's Wife yells, "Thanks for the slipper!" and the Baker points to the baby. Cinderella gives the most hilarious look of befuddlement.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Early on in the film, Jack has excellent aim with his rock slingshot, which comes in handy when taking down the giantess. As does Cinderella's ability to talk to birds, which also reveals her Prince's infidelity.
  • Close on Title: The film does not have its title appear until the end before the Video Credits.
  • Coat Full of Contraband: The Wolf opens his coat to show a display of candy when he is trying to lure Little Red Riding Hood off the path.
  • Composite Character: The Baker and the Narrator, more or less. Any Narrator lines that have been left intact are now said by the Baker via voiceover, and new dialogue is included for the sake of exposition. This concept holds significance, as the film ends with the Baker telling his son the story of his adventure, which happens to be the exact same story that he tells the audience throughout the film.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The second act of the stage version takes place nine months later, where both the Baker's Wife and Rapunzel have gotten pregnant and given birth. The film's second act is only a few days or weeks later. The Baker's Wife becomes nine months pregnant instantly, and Rapunzel is found the next day rather than after she's given birth.
  • Cool Big Sis: Cinderella becomes this to Little Red Riding Hood after her family die, acting as a sort of guide and mentor to her. It's Red who asks if Cinderella wants to come and live with them.
  • David vs. Goliath: Everyone vs the Giantess.
  • Death by Adaptation: Cinderella's father is still alive in the stage version, but a drunken layabout. In the film, he is said to be dead too.
  • Death by Falling Over: Jack's Mother dies when the Steward pushes her to the ground and she hits her head on a log. In the stage show, the Steward actually clubs her with his cane.
  • Demoted to Extra: The Mysterious Man (the Baker's father) played a large part in Act One of the stage show, but only appears twice in the movie.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Carried over from the Grimm version of the story, Cinderella's stepmother mutilates her daughter's feet to fit the golden slipper. Really? You think your daughter's future husband - or anyone else, for that matter - won't notice at some point, or care? Worse, she repeats the process with the second daughter after the first one is caught.
  • Disneyfication: Mixed bag. It's less risqué than the original production, but nonetheless contains many dark themes and plays around with them. For instance, the affair with the Prince and the Baker's Wife is kept intact, albeit with ambiguity of how far it went. In addition, the sexual subtext between The Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood are kept in and made creepier with the fact that an actual little girl played her, rather than an adult in a costume. However, Jack's mother's death is not as grisly as the original production, and Rapunzel does not die in this version.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Little Red Riding Hood is known as a cautionary fairy tale - and the scene between her and The Wolf has a definite pedophilia edge to it.
  • Dramatic Pause: From the Prologue:
    Witch: I was watching him crawl back over the wall WHEN BANG! CRASH! THE LIGHTNING FLASHED!
    (extended instrumental beat)
    Witch: But that's another story, nevermind! Anyway...
  • Dull Surprise: Red Riding Hood: "Oh dear. How uneasy I feel."
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Cinderella wears her hair down while working in her father's house, and has it in an up-do for the festival. For the part of the movie where she confesses she wants "something in-between", it is partially tied up but still partially down.
  • Express Delivery: The Baker's Wife instantly becomes eight or nine months pregnant the moment the curse is broken.
    The Baker: That was quick!
  • Failed Dramatic Exit: After sharing a passionate kiss with Rapunzel, the Prince attempts to heroically leap out her window and swing away using her hair. Unfortunately, he ends up swinging into the wall.
    Rapunzel's Prince: Bad idea!
  • Feathered Fiend: Cinderella's birds are usually happy to help her with her chores - but then they swoop down and blind her stepsisters.
  • Female Gaze: Rapunzel's prince wears tight leather pants that border on Painted-On Pants in some scenes. The song "Agony" also involves both Princes ripping their shirts open.
  • The Fool: Jack, moreso than in the original play. His suggestion that to find "hair as yellow as corn" one need look no further than an actual ear of corn takes even the Witch by surprise — but it works!
  • Gold Makes Everything Shiny: Cinderella dons a beautiful golden dress to match her golden slippers.
  • Gorgeous Garment Generation: Cinderella's gown, accessories and shoes appear on her as she spins under her willow tree.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Cinderella's stepmother decides to mutilate her daughters' feet to make them fit the golden slipper, the camera zooms in on their faces and the audience never sees their feet being mutilated or the end result.
  • Group Hug: The Baker, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and Jack do this just after they kill the Giantess.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: "Agony," complete with ripping shirts open, kneeling and swooning in the waterfall, before getting up in search of a more dramatic-looking part of the waterfall to sing at. Did we mention it's set in a waterfall?
  • Hypocritical Humour: Jack's mother tries to reprimand him from stealing the Giant's gold - and putting himself in danger - but she can't quite hide her pleasure at the newfound wealth.
  • I Told You So: Averted. Unlike in the stage show, we see nothing bad happen to Rapunzel after she ignores the Witch's warnings about "the world" and chooses her Prince over her "mother."
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Cinderella's Stepmother never gets her comeuppance for abusing her stepdaughter. While this is an issue in the original Grimm fairy tale, the original stage show rectifies this by implying the Royal family all starved to death in the woods. Here, their fate goes unmentioned.
      • Although the fact that Cinderella left her Prince would suggest that they no longer can enjoy the perks of being part of the royal family and, with Cinderella gone, must care for themselves (while the stepsisters are blind and with mutilated feet, no less).
    • Jack ultimately stole from the Giantess after she took care of him and killed her husband. He's kind of at fault too. In all fairness, he is a child, and even if he weren't simpleminded children tend to do thoughtless things and make up as they go along. Plus his age in the film makes him seem less culpable than he does onstage, where he is typically played by at least a teenager, if not a twentysomething actor.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: At the very least, Cinderella's Stepmother has to live with the fact that her daughters are blind and mutilated. Also, Jack's mother is killed - albeit accidentally - because of his actions, and Jack knows it.
  • Large Ham:
    • The Princes, especially during "Agony". They over-dramaticize their rather insignificant problems ("When the one thing you want/ is the only thing out of your reach!") and it is hilarious.
    • Meryl Streep as the Witch is clearly having a blast in the role.
    "WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO CARES!?! Cow's gone! Get it back!"
    • Johnny Depp as the Wolf doesn't have much screentime but he makes up for it by chewing up as much scenery as only Depp can.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Inverted. The Witch has her hair down in hag form. When she becomes beautiful again her hair is tied back.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the stage show but only marginally. Gruesome parts like the Baker cutting The Wolf open and the stepsisters getting their feet cut up are given a Gory Discretion Shot. The death of Jack's mother is softened, while Rapunzel lives.
  • Like Father, Like Son: The Baker fears turning into his father. He would have, if his father's ghost hadn't warned him against it.
  • Logo Joke: The Disney castle has no fireworks and ends with the titular woods framing the logo, with the pixie dust arc over the castle turning into the full moon.
  • Loophole Abuse: One of the items hair as yellow as corn silk... except there Ain't No Rule saying it has to be human hair, as actual Corn Silk works.
  • Lost Aesop: Little Red Riding Hood hesitates at the thought of killing the Giantess, pointing out that a person who's caused a lot of damage is still a person. In the song that follows, one of the lines is "witches can be right, giants can be good. You decide what's right, you decide what's good." And then they all kill the Giantess without another thought.
  • Maybe Ever After:
    • Cinderella agrees to come live with the Baker, Jack and Red Riding Hood at the end. Nothing is said and it could be an entirely platonic thing - but there does appear to be something between her and the Baker that indicates they could fall in love somewhere down the line.
    • Rapunzel and her prince are last seen riding out of the kingdom during the Giantess's rampage. It's left open whether their Fourth Date Marriage will be a happy one.
  • Missing Mom: By the end of the play everyone's mother is dead.
  • Mood Whiplash: Oh look, a Happy Ending! Oh, wait. Turns out the Giantess is coming down the beanstalk...
  • Musical World Hypothesis: Unlike Rob Marshall's previous two musicals — which used the All In Their Head theory, this runs on the Alternate Universe. It's clearly a fantasy world where costumes are a mishmash of various time periods, and a bunch of nationalities (mostly British and American) live in an ambiguously European village. The Baker's Wife clearly overhears the song "Agony", "No One Is Alone" gets interrupted before it can finish, and the Wolf changes his tone when he's singing to Red Riding Hood versus his own inner desires in "Hello Little Girl".
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Downplayed. No One Is Alone is sung in its entirety, but the very last line is interrupted by the Giantess's footsteps. But thankfully, the soundtrack averts this.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: The Baker's Wife goes through an accelerated pregnancy, which is promptly lampshaded by a blunt "Well, that was quick." A more modest interpretation is that reversing the curse simply made it as if the curse was never cast in the first place.
  • Mythology Gag: In the 2002 Broadway revival of the musical, the Wolf tries to lure in Little Red by pulling a lollipop out of his jacket. In the film, he opens one side of his jacket to reveal a collection of candy.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Averted in the film itself, as nobody who didn't have a name in the play gains one here. However on set the Baker and his wife were referred to as Geoff and Margery by crew members. Although Lucinda is the official name of the other stepsister, it's never said in the play and only All There in the Manual. Here it's said on-screen a couple of times.
  • Never Say "Die": Instead of saying Jack's Mother died, the Baker says "she didn't make it." Though they also zig-zag it.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The first trailer took an approach similar to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by hiding the fact it's a musical. Later trailers showed the actors' singing. Interestingly, the trailers emphasize the darker aspects over the comedy, the opposite of how Disney handled the trailers for Frozen and Tangled.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Whilst most of the other cast either speak with natural British accents (James Corden, Emily Blunt, Daniel Huttlestone), or affect a Mid-Atlantic one (Chris Pine, Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski), Anna Kendrick and Lilla Crawford both retain their natural American accents. But considering that the film's setting is not meant to be any particular country, it isn't quite that big a deal.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The Wolf when he's singing "Hello Little Girl."
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • The Wolf drops his British accent completely once he starts singing.
    • The Witch seems to switch between British and American at certain points in the film.
    • Lucy Punch sounds virtually American when singing, but retains her natural British accent when speaking. Considering all the other actors portraying the characters in the Cinderella story are American, this was probably an attempt to avoid standing out.
  • Older Than They Look: Rapunzel should be the Baker's sister, meaning she'd have to be around his age. She doesn't look it at all. Possibly justified in-universe because she has mostly avoided sun exposure for her whole life. And the issue also exists in the source material, when the Witch says she took Rapunzel when the Baker was "no more than a babe" and Rapunzel states she was locked in the tower for 14 years, which should make the Baker a teenager.
  • Overly Long Scream: When the Baker attempts to take Red Riding Hood's cape by force, she responds with an 8-second scream, not pausing until the Baker brings back her cape and puts it back on her.
  • Pair the Spares: Cinderella and the Baker are hinted in the third act.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: How the film ends.
  • Prince Charming: Cinderella's prince is an Exact Words version. Specifically he's The Charmer:
    "I was raised to be charming, not sincere."
  • Roadside Wave: Jack's mother is splashed by Cinderella's step-mother's carriage running through a puddle as she bows.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Wolf is given a zoot suit, an homage to the wolf character from Tex Avery's Red Hot Riding Hood.
    • Right before Cinderella leaves the festival the first time, a snippet of "Night Waltz" from A Little Night Music can be heard, and the magical harp that Jack steals from the Giant plays "You Must Meet My Wife", also from A Little Night Music. Of course, Jack does indeed meet the giant's wife.
    • Little Red's costume, apart from the cape, consists of a blue dress, red shoes and pigtails... so basically, Dorothy.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: The Baker's problems all stem from his father stealing the Witch's beans. It's implied that if the Baker had gone through with abandoning his son, he would have set the stage for his son to have to go through similar circumstances.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Rapunzel.
  • Stage Whisper: The Wolf whispers a few lyrics of "Hello, Little Girl" in the creepiest, most unsettling way possible.
  • Sticky Situation: In this version of Cinderella's tale, she loses one of her slippers when she gets stuck in pitch that Prince Charming had spread on the palace stairs to prevent her escape. Later, the survivors lure the woman giant into a sticky puddle as the first step in their plan.
  • Time Stands Still: This occurs during "On the Steps of the Palace".
  • Trailers Always Spoil: One of the trailers seems to give away the fact that Cinderella's Prince isn't as loving and sincere as he's letting on (and that he cheated on her). Look closely at the scene where the Baker's Wife is getting kissed by someone: it's the Prince. For anyone who's actually seen the play, this wouldn't be too much of a surprise.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Unlike the stage show, we don't know the full plan to kill the Giant until it's executed.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: The Witch keeps her second set of magic beans down her cleavage.
  • Video Credits: The final reprise of the title song is presented like this, much like Chicago.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Due to their fates in the stage show being too grisly for a Disney film, Rapunzel and the Royal Family disappear with no explanation for what happens to them next. However, Rapunzel was officially Spared by the Adaptation, according to the Word of God.
    • Rapunzel surviving also brings up the question if she ever finds out that the Baker is her brother or that the witch stole her from her real parents. With her dead, it was a moot point.
    • As in the musical, Milky White disappears after the first half of the film. Likewise we don't know what becomes of the cow that the Baker bought with the gold pieces.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Discussed briefly by Red Riding Hood and Cinderella.
    Little Red Riding Hood: But a giant's a person! Aren't we to show forgiveness?
  • You Are Not Alone: The final song is this to Jack and Red after their parents are killed.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Like the musical, the halfway point of the film serves as a sort of fake out "happy ending"; Cinderella and her Prince get married (as do Rapunzel and her Prince), Jack and his Mother become wealthy, the Witch regains her youth and beauty, and the Baker and his Wife finally get the child they've always wanted. Right in the middle of the royal wedding, everyone (including the narrating Baker) is interrupted by the quaking stomps of the Giantess, and it is then that the darker second half begins.

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