Into the Woods is a dark musical based on fairy tales and on paper this seemed like my kind of film. I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the stage version and in keeping with tradition I haven’t carried out any research as I have no interest in writing compare and contrast reviews.
PLOT: After failing to have a child the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) learn that they have been cursed by the Witch (Meryl Streep) who lives next door. In order to reverse the curse the Baker and his wife travel Into the Woods (roll credits) to retrieve various objects familiar fairy tales. END PLOT
Into the Woods is a clever idea as it ties together the familiar stories of Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella into one big event. Unfortunately this gimmick cannot sustain a two hour running time. It didn’t help that I thought the film was over when the Baker and his wife had their baby and thought that everyone was going to live happily ever after – this was the end of the first half!
I hope the people of America warm to James Corden as they are more than welcome to keep him and his smug satisfied face. I am not a fan (in case that wasn't clear) but I will concede that Corden was very good as the Baker and there is no denying that he can sing. Corden had great chemistry with the always reliable Emily Blunt and the film was strongest when they were on screen together.
With such a large cast it was hard to give everyone a decent amount of screen time but as expected the film degenerated into the Meryl Streep Show with the Witch getting too many songs all of which sounded exactly the same. It transpired that Streep was the least of the film's problems. It will come as a surprise to no one when I announce that Johnny Depp was the weak link. Depp played the same character he has done for years and once again proved that not only is he a one trick pony, but he is also tone deaf.
Aside from the opening number “Into the Woods”, the hilarious “Agony” and “Your Fault” the songs were instantly forgettable and the soundtrack will not be making an appearance on my ipod. This is a rare failure for a musical, even one that is brand new to me.
There are moments when Into the Woods captured the look and feel of familiar fairy tale worlds brilliantly but it is let down by bad pacing. Into the Woods gets a 4/10. The performances can’t be faulted but the combination of story/songs didn’t capture my imagination in the way that it should have. Despite a January release this film is going to be one of the disappointments of 2015. Shame.