Running Time: 125 min
Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Cordon, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Lilla Crawford, Bill Magnussen, Daniel Huttlestone, Johnny Depp
Director Rob Marshall stunned audiences and critics alike, when he released the 2002 musical comedy "Chicago". After a few more acclaimed films like "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Nine" he teamed up with Disney to make... "Pirates of the Carribean 4"?! Yes, it seems like musicals bring out the best in Marshall, while the Mouse House brings out more or less the worst. So what do we get when he directs a Disney produced film adaptation of Tony Award-winning a Broadway musical?
We get "Into the Woods": A pleasantly fresh and clever film, that only suffers from not being as cheeky as its source material would allow it to be. The movie mashes up well-known fairytales like Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella and Rapunzel with a new storyline including a baker and his wife, who collect items from all of the other tales to trade them with an evil witch, who may then reverse a curse she's put on them.
There are a few elements here that make this film exhilarating and quite fun to watch. For one, there are a lot of great comedic moments that come to being due to the casual way the movie adapts a lot of the darker under(and over-)tones of the original stories that are often left out in American film versions. Further, it turns a lot of the classical fairytale elements on their head, ruthlessly exposing how little sense they make (Cinderella is mainly on the receiving end here).Then there is the music and the choreographies. Solos and duetts balance each other out very nicely and often verses or lines of the different performers overlap, which creates a great harmonies. Moreover, Marshall has created great set pieces without ever forgetting the films theater roots. Often you can see that he refrained from CGI and instead oriented himself after the play. Nonetheless, he still uses his ability of switching camera angles to support the choreographies, and point out certain actors reactions. Most notably in the song "Agony", which is one of the most hilarious moments in a movie musical since "Reefer Madness".
But not only the two singers of that song, Bill Magnussen and Chris Pine, are giving fantastic perfomances. The whole cast does. Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick have already proven that they can sing and act at the same time, and now Blunt and Corden get to show off what their vocal chords have to offer. Johnny Depp who has fallen from grace in the last couple of years, gets to redeem himself a bit with his performance here. Special mention, however, has to go to Daniel Huttlestone, who brings back a lot of the charm he had in "Les Misérables", and to Lilla Crawford, whose portayal of little red riding hood is incredibly whitty. Both of these child actors manage to hold their own against the rest of this strong ensemble cast easily, and it would be nice to see more of them in the future.
The movie has only one problem: The first act of original musical concludes with the typical happy ending, and then, after the intermission, it lets everything go to hell. A keen concept, but the movie version spends about two thirds with the first act, and then rushes the second (and more clever) act after you thought the movie was already over. Unfortunately, that makes it feels more like a big afterthought, but if you are aware of this structure, it won't keep you from having a great time.
For Fans Of:
Mirror Mirror (2012)
The Muppets (2011)
And check out my friend's review over at B.A.'s Screentest for a second opinion.