MOVIE REVIEW: INTO THE WOODS / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: ROB MARSHALL / SCREENPLAY: JAMES LAPINE / STARRING: MERYL STREEP, EMILY BLUNT, JAMES CORDEN, ANNA KENDRICK, CHRIS PINE, JOHNNY DEPP / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Disney’s latest effort is an adaptation of a Brothers Grimm tale, itself already adapted to a play previously. Oh, and it’s a musical. Most definitely a musical. As in songs. Lots and lots and lots of them. So this isn’t quite your usual STARBURST affair, but the twisted plot of the film still has plenty to offer for genre fans.
The basic premise of Into the Woods sees famed stories of yesteryear all brought together and intertwined with the tale of a baker (Corden) and his wife (Blunt) who will do anything to start a family, despite a witch (Streep) having placed a curse on their loins. In terms of the familiar aspects of the picture, there’s plays on Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Rapunzel; all of which are woven into the greater narrative of a baker and his wife’s mission to procreate. And did we mention there’s songs?
In fairness, going into this film we were a little unsure as of what to expect. Admittedly though, we found our feet tap-tap-tapping away as soon as the opening song began to blurt out. The horror-loving, superhero-championing, sci-fi fan in us went in with stoic upper lip, expecting a traumatic experience similar to being serenaded by Grease’s Danny Zuko or have Abba songs thrown at us for 90 minutes. What we got was, yes lots of songs, but a beautifully crafted fantasy world that had a rich vibrancy and a macabre, gothic charm reminiscent of Tim Burton at his best (remember when his movies were actually good?).
At the centre of the various yarns being unravelled, we have Meryl Streep doing wonders as the central witch with her fingers in plenty of pies. The rest of the cast all hit the right notes (pun most definitely intended), with particular praise going to young Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood and to Johnny Depp as a devilishly mischievous Wolf, even if Depp’s character does come off as just a tad on the Jimmy Saville side of creepy. Oh, and Chris Pine sure can sing – James T. Kirk has certainly got some surprisingly impressive lungs on him!
Into the Woods does a great job of giving a unique look at some of the stories we’ve heard and seen many times before, and there’s a freshness and dynamism to its centre-pieces and plot devices. It would also be remiss to not acknowledge the fantastic job done by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim on the musical side of the film. As alluded to, we’re generally not really ones for musicals, but Lapine and Sondheim deliver songs, score and a soundtrack that keep Into the Woods flowing as smoothly as Rapunzel’s barnet.
All in all, despite being hesitant on what to expect from Into the Woods (did we mention there’s lots and lots of songs?), Rob Marshall has delivered an impressive film that will have an appeal to many ages and to varying tastes. Quite the impressive feat.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10
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