If you go down to the woods today… you’ll find A-listers dressed like ‘Game of Thrones’ extras belting out showtunes. ‘Into the Woods’, the 1987 fairytale mash-up musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, has fallen under Disney’s spell, getting the lavish big-screen treatment courtesy of ‘Chicago’ director Rob Marshall. It’s unspectacular but fun, and perfectly in line with Disney’s current thing for reimagining fairytales (next up, ‘Cinderella’ in March).
Meryl Streep continues her finest-actress-of-her-generation-behaving-badly streak by playing The Witch, who casts a spell of childlessness on the village baker and his wife. To break the curse the couple must bring her Rapunzel’s golden hair, Little Red Riding Hood’s cape, Cinderella’s slipper and a white cow belonging to Jack (of beanstalk fame).
Streep must have watched ‘Tangled’ on repeat, channelling Mother Gothel’s pissed-off hippie mom routine. It’s a tongue-in-cheek performance, but the favourite for this year’s Oscar for Best Fairytale Evil Bitch must be Angelina Jolie and her killer cheekbones in ‘Maleficent’.
Elsewhere, casting-wise, the only grumble is that it’s all a bit obvious. Anna Kendrick brings her all-round awesomeness to Cinderella. As The Wolf, Johnny Depp is creepy as only Johnny Depp can be. Emily Blunt is spot-on as the baker’s wife. The only surprise is James Corden – the most unlikely Brit actor to have a Hollywood moment ever – playing the heart-of-gold baker.
‘Into the Woods’ starts better than it finishes but it’s a great-looking film, with a nicely old-school, easy-on-the-CG feel. Marshall neatly balances the comedy with a few thorns – witness Cinderella’s mean stepsisters (fabulously dressed in couture vixen goth frocks) getting their eyes pecked out by birds. And so much for happy endings for everyone: one character is flattened by a giant.
Still, there are no earworms you’ll be humming for weeks, just a hilarious number sung by Prince Charming, played brilliantly by Chris Pine as a camp, feather-brained lunkhead. The look of sheer dumbfounded confusion when Cinders runs away from him is priceless. And he gets the best line: ‘I was raised to be charming, not sincere.’
Cast and crew
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3.3 / 5
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Oh dear. What a long, dreary evening. Lots of big names, bashing out big but uninteresting songs with a plotline that left me stone cold. Lots of self-congratulatory comments from those around me when it finished about how glad they had seen it and "isn't Sondheim amazing?" . Well, I am sorry. No. The whole contrived mess made me wish I had taken a punt on the screen next door. One of the worst movies I have ever seen.