It had been a long time since I saw the stage musical “Into the Woods”, but I have fond memories of its magic. Now the movie directed by Rob Marshall is on screen and it’s a lush production. Into the Woods has a great cast and is faithful to the story as a childless couple seek to end a witch’s curse. However, it seemed really long despite just two hour running time. And Stephen Sondheim music is tricky – it’s not hummable, but it does tell the tale. If sing-talk annoys you, then stop reading now.
Emily Blunt (baker’s wife) has a lovely voice. I liked her best. James Corden (baker) is pleasant. Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf is amusing. The young lady playing Red Riding Hood has a nice set of pipes, and the boy Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk) took his part well. Anna Kendrick (Cinderella) is decent but a tad shrieky on high notes. Chris Pine (the Prince) is dashing and he says, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” He appeared to have fun in his role and could sing just fine. The star is the witch and Meryl Streep can certainly act - but to me, she is only an adequate singer. Critics are suggesting Oscar nomination – I say no.
All of these characters converge in the woods and all seek different things. The Bakers want a child and must gather four items – a red hood, a white cow, golden hair, and a gold slipper – by the blue moon so the witch can create her potion and lift a curse upon them. Thus encounters with Red Riding Hood, Cinderella escaping the ball, Jack taking his family cow to market, and Rapunzel stuck in a tower are crucial to the success of the Bakers. All must conquer fears, and learn about risks. There are lessons in the songs and the famous song “Children Will Listen” is important.
All in all, I liked the film okayish (C+, B-) for my $4.50. It kept me warm on a cold day for two hours. However, unlike some musicals (like Rob Marshall’s Chicago) this did not generate audience energy. You did not want to burst into song or tap dance or do jazz hands. However, it makes you think as you go “into the woods” (i.e. enter your own life challenges) and come out on the other side.