Stephen Sondheim’s 1986 musical Into The Woods is one of his most loved and well known shows but have Disney managed to turn his musical mash-up of well loved fairytales stories into a Hollywood blockbuster this Christmas or are Sondheims obscure melodies and lyrical patterns too much for the general film going public to stomach?
Into The Woods sees fairytale characters from Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Rapunzel come together in one magical show. The Baker and his Wife are struggling to have a baby when they find out that the witch who lives next door put a curse on their families years before. If they want this curse lifted to start a family of their own, they need to go into the woods and bring back a shopping list of items. Little Red Riding Hoods cape, Rapunzels golden hair, Cinderella’s shoe and Jacks cow. Just how far are this couple willing to go to have a child?
Meryl Streep is, as usual, brilliant in her performance as the witch. She portrays evil to perfection and looks flawless. I was a little worried about seeing her in a musical after Mamma Mia, which in my opinion didn’t show her voice in the best of lights but Sondheim’s music seems to fit much better with her vocal ability. James Cordon is utterly brilliant in every sense as the Baker, going to prove his worth as a Hollywood actor and not just a star of TV. Emily Blunt is another person who, like Meryl, doesn’t seem to be able to put a foot wrong in any of the films she appears in. Emily delivers dry one-liner humour in a way that very few people can and brings the bakers wife to life wonderfully. Johnny Depp is good as the Wolf, although I didn’t warm to him as much as I did to some of the other characters. Tracey Ullman is great as Jacks Mum, looking disturbingly similar to Imelda Staunton which begs the questions why she wasn’t cast in the role along with so many other A-listers.
Into The Woods is a good film adaption of Stephen Sondheim’s musical although veers away from the darkness of the original story in order to appeal to a younger audience. Was Disney the right choice for a film of this nature? Maybe, maybe not. Will the film going public enjoy the film? Yes, although I wonder how many people would want to go back and watch it again? I’m certainly not in a huge rush to go again. Hopefully though, this film will spark enough interest to see a West End revival of the musical, back on stage which I think is the best place for it.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Into The Woods plays at Cinemas across the UK from 9th January 2015.