Into the Woods (PG)

Directed by Rob Marshall
Starring James Corden, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp, Chris Pine, Christine Baranski, Tracey Ullman, Simon Russell Beale

Film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's musical that works pretty well, but like ‘Les Mis’ last year, not likely to covert non-musical lovers! The play was highly popular about 20 or 30 years ago when it opened, but the idea of playing around with fairy tale themes is everywhere theses days, from TV like Once Upon a Time to films like Enchanted, Maleficent and more. Corden and Blunt are excellent as the Baker and his wife, desperate to have a baby and tasked by the witch (Streep) to find various fairy tale items such as Jack’s cow, Riding Hood’s cloak, Cinderella’s slipper etc. Off Into The Woods they go, and sing and have fun along the way!
Sondheim’s musical is often performed by younger companies without the second, much darker act, and I must admit I didn’t think it worked that well here. There is a definite ending about an hour and half in that everything works pretty well up to. When things take a darker turn after that, it is a bit more hit and miss. The two youngsters playing Red Riding Hood and Jack are fine, but nowhere near as interesting as the adult characters whose stories all have more emotional resonance. Streep hams it up a bit (although not as badly as Depp!) while Kendrick, Baranski and Ullman all impress. However it is definitely Emily Blunt and James Corden who were my favourites. They both have great comic timing, and surprisingly good voices and were the emotional heart of the story.
I’m not the world’s biggest Sondheim fan - I like some, not others - and the music here is good, but I’m glad I got to watch this as home rather than in the cinema as I might have got fidgety with so many talky songs. The film looks great - production design is top notch, but narratively it is a little wobbly for me. 7/10

January 2015

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