Viewer’s Guide to Into the Woods, FAQ

Q: I want to file charges against this movie for story abuse.
A: Uh-oh, what happened? Better start at the beginning.

Q: The film abducted four fairy tales — “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Cinderella,” “Rapunzel,” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.” It sucked the soul out of all of them, forced them to do its bidding, and left their undead corpses to wander the forest. That’s four counts each of story kidnapping and vampirism.
A: But isn’t entering the woods a time-honored way to show the process of transformation?

Q: Only if somebody transforms! At the end of this thing Cinderella says, “I actually enjoy cleaning sometimes.” I thought I was going to somersault backwards, right into the lap of the woman sitting behind me. Seriously, Cinderella enjoys cleaning? Setting aside the obvious feminist commentary, the whole point of Cinderella is that she hates cleaning. If you’ve got a Cinderella who likes cleaning, and she is in a situation where she gets to do exactly that, you do not have a story! Furthermore, for transformation to happen, someone has to leave the woods eventually. This movie ends with the remaining characters still in the forest and sitting on a giant log, which is a fine metaphor for the piece of you-know-what we’re dealing with here.
A: Easy, kiddo. Just the facts, please. Maybe the filmmakers were having a harmless bit of fun with fairy tale tropes.

Q: Maybe, if harmless fun means draining the power out of some of the most luminous imagery in the fairy tale world. Red Riding Hood’s cloak, for instance, instead of vibrating with raw life force and the potential for creation that so often settles around the shoulders of a girl-turning-into-a-woman, is an incidental sleeveless jacket that Red hands over to the baker, just because why not. Rapunzel’s hair is nothing more than a length of rope, rather than the cascade of silken curls that shows how beauty and libido can burst forth when you try to imprison them. And the glass slipper is supposed to suggest transparency, destiny, and the miraculous aspect of walking one’s true path. Here it’s an opaque shoe that looks like somebody stopped by Payless to pick it up on the way home. Sure, there are a few overt, ham-handed metaphors — yes, the wolf is a sexual predator; yes, mothering can be overwhelming and crushing for a child (this movie has *giant* mommy issues, pun intended) — but not one of the metaphors points beyond itself to the great mystery from which it all rises. Also Captain Kirk staggers around half-drunk in all his scenes.
A: Oh come on, it was funny when he and the blond bohunk ripped their shirts open and sang the “We’re Awesome” song.

Q: It was called “Agony.”
A: So it was. …Nothing? Not even a smile?

Q: Fine, that scene was funny. But what about the random, pointless, emotionless deaths? When death means nothing, then life means nothing, and that right there is the worst possible lie to peddle. Stories are supposed to tell lies in order to tell the truth. This movie lies in order to lie. I’m telling you, this is flagrant disregard for magic and meaning not only in fairy tales, but also in life itself. In fact it’s worse than story abuse. This film is a crime against mythology.
A: All righty, that’s enough for an investigation. I’ll be honest with you, though — don’t expect a lot of follow-up. Our detectives are stretched pretty thin, and these jokers would plead out for a lesser charge, guaranteed. Probably something like negligent imagination, or petty fictionalizing. Maybe endangering the welfare of a plotline, but even that’s just a fine and a lecture from the judge.

Q: I’d like to prop their eyelids open with forks and make them watch “The Power of Myth” fifty times, back to back.
A: You work on that. Maybe the CIA can help. All I’m doing is filing the report.