Belting its way into cinemas anyway is this rather odd adaptation of stage impresario Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods. The script is written (or rewritten) by original co-writer James Lapine, while Rob Marshall (of Chicago fame) shakily points his camera and hopes for the best as the worlds of many beloved fairytale characters intertwine before being subverted and ridiculed.
A baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are offered the chance by a wicked witch (Meryl Streep) to lift the family curse and finally allow them to have children. All they must do is collect a red cape from Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), a lock of hair from Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) and cow from Jack of beanstalk fame (Daniel Huttlestone) and a slipper from Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), whom are all coincidentally in the same forest at the same time.
In terms of fairytale subversion through musicals it’s difficult not to compare Into the Woods with Enchanted and it’s a comparison that doesn’t end well for Marshall and friends. Lacking even the most basic level of satirical edge, Into the Woods is somehow the most bizarre yet vacuous stage musical on film in some time. You can tell that each of the trademark songs is a real belter in its own right, but in the hands of the cast and crew they feel muted and flat. Only Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen come out unscathed as performers with their bodice-tearing Prince Charming parody number ˜Agony’ acting as the films’ highlight.
Elsewhere talented actors like Blunt, Corden and Kendrick are left drowning in a sea of screeches and musical numbers so bland and inoffensive that you’ll struggle to remember one song after leaving. Meryl Streep brings some scenery-chewing gravitas as the possibly not-so-wicked witch, whereas Johnny Depp looks like he walked straight off the set of the latest Tim Burton film and couldn’t be more out of place if he tried. Then there’s Jack who is cursed with that most clichÃ©d of musical children problems, a ˜cor blimey guvnor’ cockney accent.
With a running time of over 2 hours, Into the Woods drags its feet, while the constant mediocre singing will bring you down and down until you give up on the actually quite interesting story. What a waste to see something that is cleverly built so mismanaged and sucked dry of interest. The beautiful art design, incredible sets and perfect costumes only go part of the way to rekindling interest, but when its over you’ll be confused and ultimately bored.