Director: Rob Marshall.
Cast: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford.
|"Nothin' suss," said Johnny Depp, who had apparently fallen on hard times and become a furry.|
But before there were comic book characters, there were fairy tales, where similarly fantastical beings and magical happenings collided in a world where good hopefully triumphed over evil.
So why not have a crossover with all your favourite fairy tales and mash them up into one mega-Disney musical?
That's the idea behind Into The Woods, the big-screen version of the long-running Broadway play written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, where the narratives of Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack & The Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood intersect in weird and wondrous ways.
Central to the tale is The Baker (Corden) and his wife (Blunt) - a childless couple who discover the reason for their inability to breed is a hex placed on The Baker's family by the neighbourhood witch (Streep). In order to reverse the curse, they must collect four ingredients, setting in motion a chain of events that will forever change their faraway kingdom.
Meanwhile, Cinderella (Kendrick) wants to go to the ball to meet the prince (Pine), Red Riding Hood (Crawford) is being harassed on the way to Grandma's house by a wolf (a creepy cameo from Johnny Depp), Jack (Huttlestone) is on his way to market to sell his beloved cow, and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) is destined to meet a prince of her own (Billy Magnussen).
The first half of the film is whimsically silly, filled with airy songs, light-hearted gags and nothing more serious than a whole bunch of characters seeking their hearts desires as their paths intersect in the titular forest.
The second half is a decidedly darker affair with a distinctly different tone, as if it's flown in from the next theatre over. While the latter half of the film is the more interesting and thought-provoking of the two halves, it sits awkwardly with the first half, making for a disjointed and slightly off-putting whole that doesn't quite work together.
Fortunately there are excellent performances and some good humour along the way to make it all go down a little bit more smoothly. Blunt and Corden are great - their song delivery is fantastic, but their comic timing is even better, while Kendrick is as charming as any fairytale prince.
The film's actual Prince Charming - Pine - almost accidentally steals the show with the song Agony, the only out-and-out hilarious number, while Streep is at her usual level of brilliance, relishing the eccentricities of her witchy role.
Everyone does their darnedest to hold this misshapen mash-up together, but no amount of good acting, quality singing and clever songs can cover the fact it feels less like a crossover and more like two movies stuck together.
If maybe there was more darkness in the first half, or more light in the second, then Into The Woods wouldn't feel so clumsily crafted.