The rehashing of numerous fairy tales including Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Rapunzel is a very ambitious commitment by Rob Marshall. The film is adapted from Stephen Sondheim’s musical and keeps the same left field approach of the subject matter as the source material. Into the Woods chooses to avoid focusing on the main action points of any one of the fairy tales; that means we never get to see Cinderella dancing with her prince or Jack’s confrontation with the giant. Presuming we know these stories well enough already (and we seriously do), director Rob Marshall focuses on the witch and the quest she gives the baker and his wife. The baker unites all of the storylines (well, Rapunzel’s barely makes itself known) to create a film that we’ve pretty much seen before, but haven’t quite.
Brothers Grimm style darker moments compliment this odd rehashing by feeding the script with several punishments resulting in blinding, mutilation to feet (that is to say voluntary heels and toes being chopped off), a fairy tale version of adultery and constant thievery by main characters. This is all hugely bold and innovative but consequently audiences may find it hard to root for most of the characters. Meryl Streep’s Witch is forever committing terrible, terrible acts but the film is set up to like her, while the apparently good at heart heroes steal, lie and cheat to achieve their goals.
If the storyline wasn’t ambitious enough, as mentioned before Into the Woods is also a musical. The title track is the predictable standout, and a song probably called ‘It Takes Two’ (not the song you think it is…) between James Corden and Emily Blunt is a reasonably fun upbeat number. Apart from that Stephen Sondheim’s score delivers little other than rather generic rhyming conversation against predictable musical progressions. All of the actors are shown capable to have a tuneful voice but the compliments unfortunately stop there.
What’s more the music actually stops the film from becoming fun. Corden and Blunt have a fantastic on screen chemistry that brings wit and romance to the forefront, but for all the oddly placed singing we barely get to see their naturalistic jests at each other. That goes for many of the other characters as well. Chris Pine as the Cinderella’s Prince is an awkward stage presence which seems to work for his role, but its easy to imagine him excelling in an overly flamboyant The Princess Bride rip if he was allowed to speak lines rather than sing.
It may be you’ll love Into the Woods. And for my review I truly apologise. I do like certain musicals but for me this just didn’t cut the mustard in story, character or music however much I tried to love it. Good luck on your own 125 minute adventure if you dare to try it.
Author: Matt, Cardiff store