★★★★☆

COURTESY CDNVIDEO.DOLIMNG.COM Meryl Streep plays a mischievous witch in the new Disney movie "Into the Woods."
COURTESY CDNVIDEO.DOLIMNG.COM
Meryl Streep plays a mischievous witch in the new Disney movie “Into the Woods.”

“Into the Woods” is a modern, dark take on traditional fairytales, and it has everything you would expect from a large-scale, big-name Disney blockbuster. There are the typical laugh-out-loud moments from almost all the characters as well as flawless, dramatic song sequences. However, there are also scenes of great heartache and meaningful messages that keep you thinking long after you’ve left the theater.

The story takes place in a traditional and generic kingdom that features all the usual fairytale characters. The Audience meets Cinderella, a baker and his wife, a young boy named Jack, Little Red Riding Hood and an evil witch, among others. Each of these characters enters the woods in order to complete a specific task and achieve his or her wish. As the story progresses, these characters meet one another and push themselves to greater lengths in order to achieve what they desire most. It even seems at one point as if all is finally well — but what’s a good story without a few twists?

One of the greatest aspects of this film, and surely one of its greatest initial pulls, is its stellar cast. Featuring Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt and Chris Pine as various storybook characters, “Into the Woods” draws audiences into a thrilling, fantastical world.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (the Academy Award and eight-time Tony winning composer), this musical’s soundtrack is nothing short of breathtaking. The intricate dialogue that takes place through the music and the dramatic atmosphere it creates are both of an incredibly high caliber. Audiences are left spellbound by the talents of the cast, particularly of Meryl Streep, who is likely to receive yet another Oscar nomination for her world-class performance in this film.

The film is directed by Rob Marshall, who is extremely successful and experienced in the field. His previous films include the Academy Award-winning “Chicago” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Marshall creates a unique take on the classical fairytale.

In a conference call with The Hoya, Anna Kendrick (“Pitch Perfect” and “The Twilight Saga”) described the experience of working with Marshall. “Rob really embraced a modern sensibility for all the characters. Since these stories kind of belong to the ages, it makes sense that we update them every generation,” Kendrick said.

She also described how she reinvented her character of Cinderella. “One thing he told me to do was be an overthinking, analytical, neurotic princess. I think modern women have a tendency to overthink everything. And [Cinderella] is doing that the entire piece until something that she really has to reckon with happens. When the community is in crisis … it’s very clear for her what’s important,” Kendrick said.

This film is a complex web of dynamic characters. Each person’s journey overlaps with another’s, and by the end of the film, the true connections between them and the challenges they face are revealed to have a common source.

During the conference call, Chris Pine (“Star Trek,” “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”), who plays Prince Charming, offered a description of his character’s contrasting lack of development: “Everyone in this film goes through these wonderfully complex journeys. They experience joy, heartache, sorrow and grief, and then my prince is just way more one-dimensional. He is wonderfully self-absorbed. … Cinderella gives him the chance to really feel … but then [he] makes the choice to go back and relive, over and over again, the storybook life he is so accustomed to.”

This film is a high-energy, action-packed fantasy adventure that will keep audiences entertained through its almost two-and-a-half-hour length, and it will produce many laughs along the way. Chris Pine’s performance of “Agony,” a jovial song that parodies brooding, sorrow-ridden Princes, is hilarious; he expertly displays the humor in longing for fleeting loves.

Many modern Disney films present audiences with a meaningful message to take from the story and apply within the context of their own lives, and “Into the Woods” provides a moral lesson that audiences might not expect. As Kendrick describes: “The piece is about parents and children: the disappointments of parents, the failings of parents. It’s based on stories that parents have told their children for generations. There are elements where it’s pure fantasy and it’s exciting for kids, but there’s also a message that is specifically centered toward adults which is that we have to be careful what we tell our children. Children pick lessons apart … [and] it’s our responsibility to prepare them for the realities of the world.”

In typical Disney fashion, “Into the Woods” is a remarkable achievement. From the music, to the performances by the cast, the setting and CGI work, every element is top notch. There is little fault to find in “Into the Woods.” While it is darker than expected and may not be your typical family movie, it offers a powerful message to adults as well as children that makes it enjoyable for all.

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