Director Rob Marshall has lots of fun with this film adaptation of the award-winning Broadway musical, as do the stellar cast of actors who belt out Stephen Sondheim’s original tunes with zeal. Standing out among her peers is Emily Blunt as wife to James Corden’s down-to-earth but troubled baker, who is sent on a mission to retrieve four magical items in order to lift a curse that has been placed on his family by a blue-haired witch (Meryl Streep).
Corden may at first appear to be a strange choice to lead this ensemble cast, but he does a fine job in his role and his narration of this dark amalgamation of Brothers Grimm fairy tales is endearing. He brings a sincerity which a younger audience should appreciate.
Meanwhile, Chris Pine is fantastic as the arrogant Prince Charming, and provides one of the most amusing highlights in the form of a sing-off with Rapunzel’s prince in a one-upmanship tune. Streep is as brilliant as ever at being evil, and Anna Kendrick manages the role of the indecisive Cinderella with her usual elegance.
Young newcomer Lilla Crawford may overdo it as a greedy Red Riding Hood, but the bad attitude of her character brings to mind Denise Nickerson’s bubble-gum chewing Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory which shares many of the themes seen in Into The Woods.
The costume design from Colleen Atwood brings with it a theatricality that is intrinsic to the core of the film. Johnny Depp’s big bad wolf costume in particular exhibits a sense of creativity that does away with the need for CGI. The location shooting in the ancient Ashridge Estate adds to the nightmarish ambience, and provides a suitably threatening backdrop for the characters’ existential crises to play out on.
In keeping with the source material, its themes of being careful what you wish for, unconditional love and greed are handled in an accessible manner, with the final twist being as gloomy as necessary. The only thing that occasionally lets this entertaining adventure down is its need to hammer home its various fairy tale-typical points.