Into The Woods isa long, colourful clutter of a musical. Directed by Robb Marshall, and adapted from musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, the film takes well-known fairy tales such as Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood and Cinderella and wraps them together into an original narrative about a baker and his wife. The standouts in the cast are James Corden and Emily Blunt, who play the main roles well while remaining consistently light-hearted. As the Wolf, Johnny Depp is good, although he comes off more as a sexual predator than any other kind.
Into the Woods is, above all, fun. More than this, though, it keeps the wickedly cruel twists of the original stories while maintaining their humour and appeal. Marshall’s Cinderella doesn’t preserve the squeaky-clean Disney narrative. As in the original Grimm story, the evil stepmother butchers her own daughters’ feet in order to fit them into the coveted glass shoe. It sounds horrifying, but the creative cruelty in certain parts of Into the Woods helps it to stand out from other funny films, making it, rather sadistically, all the more watchable.
For the most part Into the Woods is fun and nonsensical in the way that only musicals can be, both parodying and making the best of the stories it contains. Characters from the separate stories intermix and overlap, having sudden, well-timed encounters. These events are ludicrous, and because of this, the contrasting attempts at character development feel dull. When the audience is supposed to leap suddenly from the absurdity of a magical quest to a man’s concern about being a good father, it doesn’t quite work. We are expected to see these exaggerated people as worthy of real attention in their own right. However, the filmmakers have spent too long satirising the characters for this to be remotely convincing. Into the Woods is beautifully ridiculous, but this sadly comes at the cost of any real character development.
Into the Woods is ultimately a fun film, but that is all. It sets out to be bright, colourful and to keep kids entertained for a couple of hours, and succeeds in being a refreshingly old-fashioned take on fairy tales.