The familiar tales of Cinderella, Jack and the beanstalk, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood all intertwine in this fantasy musical.
Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, what a cast! They all perform excellently (perhaps Johnny Depp being the exception).
All the stories center around a baker and his wife played by James Corden (Begin Again) and Emily Blunt (Edge Of Tomorrow), who venture into the woods at the demands of a witch, played by Meryl Streep (August: Osage County). The two wish that they could have a child, but a curse set on their house many years ago by the witch is preventing that, with four magical ingredients, the curse can be reversed and all will come to a happy end.
Fans of the Steven Sondheim Broadway show feared that the film version would lose a lot of the more mature themes explored in the musical, but the film retains its edge for the most part. Johnny Depp's scene as "The Wolf" carried the most adult subtext about sexual danger towards "Little Red Riding Hood" and be warned, its overly obvious. The scene felt out of place in the film and left me feeling a bit disgusted.
The rest of the cast do an excellent job, both with dialogue and their musical scenes. Of course Streep is fantastic but all of the cast get their time to shine. James Corden and Emily Blunt as the baker and his wife do a great job, Chris Pine (Star Trek) and Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) really nailed their roles but I'd say the biggest standout was young Lilla Crawford as "Little Red Riding Hood", she was a real standout both in the musical segments and the comedy aspect of the film.
Director Rob Marshall who directed "Chicago" to its Best Picture win has constructed a thrilling musical here. Every single musical scene was perfect, but the film does have its setbacks.
Just when you think the film is about to end, it goes on for another 20 minutes and that really brought the film down for me, the film should have ended a lot sooner because the scenes that follow feel very detached from the rest of the film. It's off to a magnificent start which really surprised me but after a while the film starts to lose a lot of tension, which would have benefited the story. The two protagonists need to find four items before a certain time yet I never felt on edge that they might not get them.
My other issue is that the woods didn't feel like a vast location even though they were show as being so. Rob Marshall creates a very claustrophobic feeling world where characters just find each other with hardly any trouble at all which does detract from overall pleasant experience a little bit. Because of this, it all feels very staged, no encounter feels spontaneous which is should do as these tales are overlapping.
Despite those problems with the film, it is a still a very beautiful and fun movie, with incredible catchy songs and great performances. The concept of "Into The Woods" is what happens after the 'Happy Ever After' and at times the film can get quite dark, there is death, sexual undertones and even the possibility of feeding an 11 year old child to an angry giant.
The first hour of the film is incredible fun, I felt invigorated watching this story unfold. The second hour however takes an unexpected dark turn and it threw me off a little bit but it also made it all the more surprising.
I haven't seen the play, but from what I hear the themes are much more mature and explored further and whilst watching the movie, I felt that they were holding back to get that PG rating.
"Into The Woods" is a beautiful looking, magically sounding film with very good performances and songs and it's a lot of fun, I say go see it!