Summary: As a break from the FM website’s usual fare of geopolitical realism, today film critic Locke Peterseim reviews Disney’s “Into the Woods”. It’s a polished not-scary fantasy of the kind we 21stC Americans love, quite unlike fairy tales’ dark historical roots. Post your thoughts about the movie in the comments.
I do struggle with my sometimes unreasonable hatred of Disney. .. But you could at least make the argument that when it comes to things like Marvel superheroes, Star Wars, the Muppets, or Toy Story, Disney is selling products that are pop-culture baubles to begin with. I have much love in my 11-year-old self’s heart for most of those things, but they are pretty much the sort of enjoyable lightweight diversions that even I have to admit Disney does a pretty amazing job of re-imagining then re-packaging.
I hope we can all agree that Stephen Sondheim musicals do not fall into that same bucket of enjoyable fluff. … I love his music and several of his musicals: his often discordant, hook-resistant, complex song-writing subversively paints a world (often populated by misguided dreamers and creators) that is dark, introspective, and morally layered — not to mention painfully, often tragically ironic.
Disney doesn’t really do deep discord. Or complex. Or subversion. And while Disney will sometimes play at a sort of “lite” darkness (Hellooo, Miss Malificent), it rarely does honest introspection, real moral ambiguity, and certainly not ironic tragedy. No matter which way it bends and weaves through decades of changing tastes and trends, for the most part Disney does escapism. It does fairytales.