Familiar fairytale characters like Red Riding Hood, The Baker and his Wife, Prince Charming and Cinderella each venture ‘into the woods’ to find something to make their wishes come true. But they soon learn that all wishes have consequences – and it’s something that will impact each and every one of them as their stories entwine.
Stephen Sondheim’s celebrated musical is brought vividly to life by director Rob Marshall. With past credits that include Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha and the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie; On Stranger Tides, Marshall is no stranger to big productions. He brings all of this together very well and deserves the highest praise for spear-heading such a daunting endeavour.
James Lapine deserves credit too for adapting his book to the big screen without losing any of its grandeur, magic or intensity. Sondheim fans will lap this up and coming from the Disney stable, you can be assured of quality throughout the production. There’s a level of expertise on show that will delight even the most unwilling of viewers. But be warned – it’s far too long and you really have to love your musicals to get the most from this. It drags on in places and you’ll check your watch more than once.
To those unfamiliar with the story, it will come as a surprise to find that the end of the first act brings things to quite satisfying, natural conclusion (on the surface). Of course, we know that there are still 2 acts to come and it’s these next two acts that really set Into The Woods apart from other musicals. It’s a key factor in the story’s longevity and success but the final two acts really feel arduous in places. Its overriding message – that wishes all have consequences – is a noble, original idea but the message could have been relayed a bit quicker. As said, musical fans will love the attention to detail here but I fear this will be lost on the casual cinema-goer.
An all-star ensemble delivers a glittering ode to the famous story. The women deservedly take centre-stage with Meryl Streep (The Witch), Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), Mackenzie Mauzy (Rapunzel) and Emily Blunt (The Baker’s Wife) all sensational. Blunt in particular steals her scenes and showcases yet another impressive string to her bow. Streep is her usual, prerequisite best and hands in a performance that delights throughout.
Also featuring the likes of James Corden (The Baker), Chris Pine (Prince Charming) and Johnny Depp (The Wolf), the movie isn’t short of star power. Corden is good but forgettable and Pine is amazing as a vain prince. Depp has a decent cameo as the big, bad wolf looking to dine on Red Riding Hood, but the song he sings does contain some very questionable lyrics indeed.
Into The Woods is a high-calibre production that has successfully united many key factors to gain its success. It looks good, it feels like a big production and the music will keep fans of the original happy whilst introducing legions more to the wonders of Sondheim. But there are problems and it affects the overall enjoyment of the piece. Worth it for spectacle alone, Into The Woods is an enjoyable matinee but make sure you’re comfortable because it’s a long 125mins.