People didn’t like Into the Woods, and I think I mostly agree with them. Part of this is that Stephen Sondheim isn’t my favorite (I know, I know, you’re definitely supposed to, but I just don’t really get it). But most of it is the Disneyfication. The original musical is unapologetically grown-up. Taking that away does violence to the coherence of the story, and the lame, winking attempts to minimize the problem don’t succeed.

The charm of the show is the interlocking stories:

  • Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) wants to go to the ball to meet the Prince (Chris Pine). I find Kendrick hard to root for, which was a problem, but Pine was enjoyably cheesy as the “charming but not sincere” royal.  Christine Baranski and Lucy Punch are entirely wasted as step-mother and a step-sister (Punch reprising a rôle she played in Ella Enchanted).
  • Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) meets a wolf (Johnny Depp) in the woods. Crawford’s affect was almost unbelievably flat; Depp was atrocious in what I think was a (gratefully) curtailed version of the creepy sex-offender Mr. Wolf.
  • Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) lives in a tower, also has an attendant Prince (Billy Magnussen). Both very good-looking, their love-story is probably the most appealing.
  • Jack (Daniel Huttlestone, yes, Gavroche) sells his cow for giant-beanstalk-growing magic beans. He needs a different haircut. Tracey Ullman is great as his mom, obviously.
  • A baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) want a child. They play off each other well, and can both really sing.
  • A witch (Meryl Streep) has put a curse on the baker’s family, and they need to collect something from each of the four first-mentioned characters to break it. She’s Meryl, but with bluer hair.

So it’s mostly fine, but not great. The cinematography does all of that sweeping fake Disney forest nonsense, which is unnecessary and bad. There’s a blue filter most of the time, which is at odds with the general kiddification. The costumes are mostly all right except that everyone wears to the ball a dress with a mullet hemline, which looks really stupid.

I recommend just getting the Bernadette Peters one.

Stray observations:

  • James Corden’s impatience with Red is the best comic moment in the film.
  • Cinderella’s dress looks unfinished, and she wears the same one all three nights. Also the shoes are ugly! No good, guys.
  • Her birds, too, are pretty creepy. You can’t use crow-like birds to be Cinderella’s cute sidekicks, because crows are ominous and scary.

Director: Rob Marshall
Rating: PG
Length: 125 minutes
Score: 3/5

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