Review: Into the Woods

into the woodsStarring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp

Disney, out now

Disney’s big-screen adaptation of the award winning Stephen Sondheim stage musical is either oblivious to the fact that the writer is taking huge jabs at the fairy tale output of the House of Mouse or they’ve realised that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. It’s as if The Princess Bride or Shrek never happened, as the classic children’s stories get the postmodern treatment. But what does this matter when the class is of this calibre?

While stopping short of winking at the camera, this knowing pastiche weaves together a number of fairy tales to create a fantastic (in both senses of the word) canvas that has Cinderella, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood appearing in the same story. Of course, this is nothing new – little girls have been mashing up the classics with their dolls for generations – but for Disney to create a Princesses Assemble team-up just shows how confident the company is to have fun with its properties. The lyrics by Sondheim are sublime, rhyming words in ways that are both so clever and obvious that you wonder why you never made them before. The starry cast, topped by Meryl Streep’s Witch, are on top form too, though I’m still unconvinced by James Corden’s all-too-familiar schtick. Emily Blunt is probably the greatest surprise, boasting a strong voice and great comic timing, while Depp’s Wolf is probably on screen just long enough to avoid outstaying its welcome. As with his previous Sondheim role in Sweeney Todd, Depp growls rather than sings, but when you’re playing the big bad, that’s not really a problem.

Having not been lucky enough to have seen the stage production I can’t comment on whether the celluloid version has lost any of the original’s charm, but judged in isolation this is an intelligent, witty and… ahem, Grim(m) musical treat that knows it’s clever and then goes to show you why. And surely it will all end happily ever after? Surely?

Verdict: Hummable tunes, sublime lyrics and a starry cast – if you go into the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise! 9/10

Nick Joy



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