I went into the film with an open heart and an open mind with no preconceptions based on the stage version (never saw it), I stuck with the movie through the setup, and I left cinema with a letdown.
What is the point of it all?
To critique and revise the fairy tale genre? (Shrek does it so much better.)
To reinforce the sexism of old stories? (One might think so when the Baker’s Wife, who doesn’t even have her own name, must pay for a minor indiscretion with her life while the caddish prince goes obliviously on his way to chase another day.)
To make some money recycling a musical from one medium to another? (It is a business, after all.)
Whatever the point, Into the Woods falls apart after the set up because not enough attention has been paid to the thesis of the film. What does it mean? What is the point? I should have defensible answers to those questions, and I do not because I don’t care about it at all.
My friend Chad maintains that “Be careful what you wish for” is a defensible premise, although he thinks it is not developed very well.
I agree with him that this is a theme that emerges in the final act, but it is a skimpy frame to hang a narrative on when there is so little support for contextualizing that idea more broadly, imbuing it with richer layers of meaning, and pulling together a story that coheres in terms of plot and theme.
Instead, the effort seems focused on structure at the expense of context, and even the structure has some problems.
No Maleficent here…and more is the pity.