Into The Woods: Film Review
Cast: James Corden, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Daniel Huttlestone
Director: Rob Marshall
A veritable Venn diagram of fairy-tales collide on the big screen in this version of the Stephen Sondheim / James Lapine Tony Award-winning musical, starring Meryl Streep as a blue-haired witch.
Centring on James Corden and Emily Blunt's baker and their wife, the story tells of how the pair try to reverse a witch's curse that has left them childless. Given the quest of collecting four items to revoke the spell, the duo heads off into the woods, encountering famous fairy-tale characters like Cinderella, Jack, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood on the way.
Into The Woods is a film of two halves. (Much like the musical in many ways)
The first hour is an irreverent, amusingly self-mocking look at the various stories and one which comes out of the stables firing on all cylinders, providing laughs, creepiness (Johnny Depp's cameo as the Big Bad Wolf is deeply unsettling) and setting the tone for the movie as it builds up to Happily Ever After aka the Disney norm - and what comes after.
Corden and Blunt have an affability that's endearing from the get go to the moment the shock-haired witch blows their bakery door down and reveals the deception within their world. Streep's compelling enough in the first hour, and commands most of the time she's on screen. Equally, Pine amuses in his OTT turn as the Prince, a blackguard whose hamminess is matched only by his poster boy poses and riffing on the perception of the Prince in fairy tales as a dishy dreamboat whose bravery is superseded by his ego.
But it's the second half of Into The Woods which really lets itself down - possibly due to the slavish debt to its source material. Characters we've been asked to care for in the build up are casually tossed to one side or dismissed as the Giant's widow attacks. And the glut really starts to kick in too, with the energy levels falling quickly as we lurch toward the finish line. However, the holes really show as emotional exits fail to hit any such note and blink-and-you'll-miss-them endings are wasted as the blandness of some of the characters comes through. Costuming and music impress though, with Streep's impressive charisma and relative presence being the main takeaway of Into The Woods.
Unfortunately though, when the pace drops, the paper-thin nature of the characters and the relative blandness of their actors seeps uncomfortably to the fore leaving you lamenting the fact the film feels overlong and unnecessarily stuffed to the gills with moments that miss the mark rather than seizing them.
If you go Into The Woods today, you may be in for a mixed ride.