Friday, 9 January 2015

Into the Woods Review

The acclaimed stage musical hits the big screen with an A-list cast and effects budget to boot. When an ordinary baker learns that a witch once upon a time cast a spell on his family, he is informed that his wife will never be able to bear children unless the spell is undone. The only way to undo this curse is for the baker to head into the woods with the witch’s shopping list of conveniently iconic fairy-tale memorabilia to collect. All this is revealed through exposition heavy Stephen Sondheim show tunes adapted from James Lapine’s successful stage version of Into the Woods

James Corden’s baker and his wife Emily Blunt have to find and steal Little Red Riding Hood’s cape, Jack’s cow (that he was hoping to swap for some magic beans), Cinderella’s slipper and a lock of Rapunzel’s hair. Their own mission is intermingled with the trials of these classic fairy-tale characters with Meryl Streep’s witch all the while pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Director Rob Marshall who made Chicago and Nine here marshals his all-star cast to pantomime proportions. Added to Cordon, Blunt and Streep are Johnny Depp as Red Riding Hood’s wolf and Anna Kendrick as Cinderella to Chris Pine’s Prince Charming. The fairy tales feel forced together, joined by insistently chirpy songs that explain the plot endlessly. While the special effects perhaps make it more interesting than the play, the strange structure of the story means that just as you think Into the Woods is finished, there is a whole new complication thrown in that drags the film out to just over the two hour mark.

Cordon and Blunt are good at the centre but a lot of the acting around them feels like watching a particularly shrill pantomime. Cordon is the unexpected star who rises above the other cast members and despite some decent subversions of the original tales, particularly Kendrick’s feminist Cinderella, Into the Woods fails to charm in the way it should.

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