Director: Rob Marshall
Cast: Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt and Chris Pine
Running Time: 125 minutes
Release Date: January 9th
If anyone is going to have a hand in reshaping fairy-tales into a post-modern, self-aware mould, then it should be Disney. Already having had a blast doing so with Enchanted, they’re at it again, bringing the hugely popular Sondheim musical to the big screen in the safe hands of the director of Chicago.
The plot is set up nicely within the opening number; a childless couple (Emily Blunt and James Corden) find out that the witch next door (Meryl Streep) has put a curse on their home, one she is willing to lift if they can source a red hood, a white cow and a golden slipper. So it’s into the titular woods they go, crossing paths with poor Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and his troublesome beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) and the predatory wolf (Johnny Depp) that is salaciously chasing her, and Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her equally predatory Prince Charming (Chris Pine).
There’s A LOT going on, and it helps that we’ve a lot of famous faces to help us keep track of who’s who, and while director Rob Marshall does a good job of hop-scotching from comedic to fantastic to tragic, not everyone in front of the camera can keep up with the switching tones. Blunt brings some tremendous comic timing to her line readings which makes her the most interesting character to watch, Streep enjoys both the cantankerous and voluptuous aspects of her role, and Pine has an absolute ball channelling William Shatner (ironically?) as the “charming, not sincere” prince. The rest of the cast fail to bring the same level of depth and commitment, with Corden in particular sticking out like a sore thumb.
While the message that you should be careful what you wish for – love, beauty, riches – and maybe just be happy with your lot in life is counter-programming to the wish-fulfilment that Disney are usually so adept at supplying, the satire isn’t quite so sharp as it was in Enchanted. It’s only during the surprise fourth act when death, adultery and multiple blinding’s occur that Into The Woods shows its true darkness, a shade you’d wished it had visited more often throughout its entire run-time.
Still, the musical numbers are catchy – even if nobody will be seeing them a year a later a la “Let It Go” – and the visuals are lush and mostly free of the OTT CGI we’d seen the likes of Maleficent and Oz: The Great & Powerful use to create their worlds. So if you go Into The Woods today, you’ll find a lot to like, but not a lot to love.