WRITTEN BY: James Lapine
DIRECTED BY: Rob Marshall
STARRING: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine
RATING: 4 stars
Into the Woods provides a modern twist on several fairy tales by intertwining their plots. The funny – but also at times quite dark – musical follows Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone), and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), but links all of their plots together with an original story involving a Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt). The couple must lift a curse placed by the Witch (Meryl Streep) so that they can become parents.
This Tony award-winning musical has been adapted into a film with several changes along the way to make it more child-friendly. It is a good move but there are still plenty of adult themes, which will go over the heads of youngsters. Director Rob Marshall and his team created a visually magnificent set and edited certain songs out of the musical to tighten the film and its narrative. Although I have not seen a live version of Into The Woods, I do not think the film drastically suffers from any song or sub-plot exclusions. Into The Woods is a lavish production with a delightful cast.
Streep has certainly improved her singing since Mamma Mia and is vocally very strong in this role, which is much more than just an evil witch. Blunt is also a surprisingly good singer and it is great to see the Devil Wears Prada duo back together on-screen. In fact, Blunt's character is quite complex and sad, and although many of her decisions might be met with a disapproving frown, her motives are genuine. There is no doubt that her character has been dealt a rotten hand. Corden is equally impressive and has great chemistry with Blunt.
Huttlestone is delightful but Crawford is a little annoying at times, although that has more to do with her character than the young actress herself. Meanwhile, Mauzy has very little to do but be a damsel in distress. Kendrick is as solid as ever in both her acting and singing. But it is Chris Pine as the sexy and arrogant Prince Charming who is again the scene stealer after his recent success in Horrible Bosses II. He is absolutely hilarious. Johnny Depp also has a small role as the wolf hunting Little Red Riding Hood and he has one very creepy song. If it were a more sleazy actor, it would have been more disturbing.
Into The Woods is a lot of fun, but if you do not like musicals, then this film will not change your mind.