Sunday, November 30, 2014


If any further proof were needed that fairy tales are taking over our popular culture, consider this—a new trailer for the movie version of Into the Woods!

While this musical fairy tale mashup from composer Stephen Sondheim and scriptwriter James Lapine wowed Broadway in 1987, it's taken almost 30 years for the show to make it to the big screen. But now, at last, the timing seems to be right.

For one thing, Disney's live-action Once Upon a Time TV series (or, as we like to call it around my house, the mosh pit where old Disney characters go to die) continues to be a big hit.

Yes, I despair of them ever giving their Captain Hook character anything to do besides trail around in Emma's wake, pining for her.

 Still, I hear from many readers of Alias Hook how much they adore Colin O'Donoghue in the role, so I'm grateful to him and the show for helping to make the character sympathetic to the mass audience.

Anyway, it's no coincidence that the Disney company is also responsible for getting Into the Woods up on the big screen. (There must be a Faustian bargain inked in blood somewhere that no fairy tale spinoff can ever again be produced without Disney participation.)

And it's interesting that the director is Rob Marshall, famed for his film adaptation of Chicago. More recently Marshall directed the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides, which no doubt accounts for Woods securing Johnny Depp in the featured role of The Wolf.

I understand there's some distress in the blogosphere over this casting, that some fans were hoping for a wolfier, perhaps CGI version of this character in all his scary beastliness. (Although I do think it would sort of break the illusion when he bursts into song.

But wolves exist in fairy tales to symbolize the dangers of the outside (read: grown-up) world to supposedly innocent children like Red Riding Hood. And what more dangerous predator is there than Man?

Besides, look how cool Depp looks in his Zoot Suit and big, furry ears! I can't help but think of the slick, anthropomorphic wolves in the old Warner Brothers cartoons drawn by Tex Avery.

The rest of the cast is not exactly chopped liver either: Meryl Streep as the Witch, James Corden and Emily Blunt as the pivotal Baker and his Wife, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, and Chris Pine (newly discovered—by me—as an entertaining comic actor) as Cinderella's Prince, to name but a few.

Onstage, Into the Woods was a sardonic meditation on what happens after Happily Ever After, and a wistful cautionary tale to be careful what you wish for.

If you've never seen the stage production do what I did: nip off to the library and borrow the original Broadway cast production on DVD.

So when the film version opens Christmas Day, you'll be all set to marvel at how enduring, alluring, and open to endless interpretations fairy tales continue to be.

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