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Into The Woods - Review

Into The Woods

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IT BOASTS a star-studded cast, some slick visuals and plenty of dark fairytale subversion but is Rob Marshall’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s musical worth making a song and dance about? The answer is yes and no.

The film version of Broadway smash Into The Woods entertains in fits and starts. When it’s good, there’s plenty to admire, including a terrific performance from Golden Globe nominated Emily Blunt. But there are also long moments that feel laboured, especially during the protracted third act. You will also have to really like musicals.

For those that do, however, Marshall’s film certainly has a lot of fun putting its modern twist on several beloved Brothers Grimm fairytales (from Red Riding Hood to Jack & The Beanstalk), while also giving its talented ensemble cast plenty of song and dance routines.

Taking centre-stage are a baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt), who wish to start a family, but who find themselves at the mercy of a witch (Meryl Streep) who has put a curse on them, and who sets them a seemingly impossible task to break it.

Nevertheless, this determined couple head into the woods to complete the quest, thereby coming into contact with Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her dashing prince (Chris Pine), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone) and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), all of whom had a role to play in the witch’s grand plan.

Marshall’s film is at its brightest when tinkering with what you already know of these classic fairytale characters, while exploring the consequences of their wishes along the way – most of which have much darker outcomes than you may have been expecting.

But having set up some fun scenarios, the film badly loses momentum as its heads into the final act and interest starts to wane long before the final credits roll, especially given the disposable nature of certain characters (some of whom disappear far too suddenly to leave the impact they deserve). It’s during these times that the film also struggles to find the right tone, with the darker, more tragic elements sometimes being undermined by the glibness of the songs.

The PG certificate also seems a little generous for younger children, so parents are duly advised to take some caution given the violent/disturbing nature of some of the themes.

On the plus side, there’s a joyful performance from Blunt to savour, who seems to have the best measure of the material (her knowing looks and line delivery are often a joy to behold), as well as fun support from the ever-dependable Kendrick, a surprisingly effective and self-deprecating Chris Pine and both Streep (clearly having a blast as the witch) and Johnny Depp (creepy and disturbing as the wolf on Red Riding Hood’s trail).

Hence, for anyone prepared to go Into The Woods with an open mind and a love of all things Grimm and musical, Marshall has delivered a flawed but entertaining adaptation that will doubtless become a big success.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 125mins
UK Release Date: January 9, 2015