Gavin Miller gives his verdict on Into The Woods...
This Disney musical climbs the beanstalk, then – like the giant – falls down under its own weight.
For the most part it is enjoyable – with a dark curveball underbelly – family fare, with some catchy songs, including the main theme tune.
The only problem is that after building up to the seemingly ‘happy ever after’ ending, the last third is a bit of a disjointed mess, that goes, well, a little bit weird – and undoes some of the good work.
Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical at least deserves credit for offering something a little more unpredictable with this modern twist on the Brothers Grimm fairy tales – Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk – generally delivering under the guidance of Oscar-nominated Chicago director Rob Marshall.
Meryl Streep stars as the witch looking to reverse a curse she put on the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) – due to an altercation with the Baker’s father some years earlier – which means they are never able to have children.
So ‘Into the Woods’ the couple go to try and procure four magical items from the aforementioned tales – which feature the likes of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), the Prince (Chris Pine), Jack’s mother (Tracey Ullman) and Mr Wolf (Johnny Depp) – to lift the spell.
Through the four tales intertwined within the main plot there’s a nice blend of humour, intrigue and of course songs, that entertain, without ever really getting to that ‘wow’ factor level that has been felt in the likes of Les Miserables or Frozen in the past couple of years.
And the unexpected turn of events with some of the character and story arcs, which will either stun or amaze depending on whether you like your musicals to be more straight-laced or not.
The cast all play their part competently – although Corden struggles to be anything more than a ‘nicer’ version of his Gavin and Stacey ‘Smithy’ character – and it ends up being an above-average musical fantasy-adventure.
It won’t linger in the memory for too long, but it’s just about worth venturing into the woods for.