Into the Woods 

Rob Marshall turns a stage musical into a delightfully "stagey" movie

Into the Woods
  • Into the Woods

For large chunks of Into the Woods, it seems as though Rob Marshall is determined to do what we're all told never works: turning a stage musical into a movie while resolutely retaining its "stageiness." And that's also when Into the Woods is at its most delightful.

The Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical retains the basic structure that intertwines multiple fairy tales into one complex plot. While Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) tries to find her way to the ball, Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) heads to grandmother's house. And while Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) heads to town to sell his cow, The Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) try to find the objects that will appease a witch (Meryl Streep) who has cursed them with childlessness.

There's not a lot of meat on the bones of the narrative, which touches on the moralizing, instructive nature of fairy tales while mostly providing a framework for Sondheim's tunes. And while the composer is known for more complex melodies than the hummable show-stoppers favored in most musical theater, Into the Woods still offers an opportunity to hear great versions of "Agony," It Takes Two," "On the Steps of the Palace" and other terrific songs.

But it's perhaps most satisfying when Marshall opts for staging that emphasizes a theatrical brand of artifice, like the spray of "moonlight" with which he illuminates the Wolf (Johnny Depp), or the set piece involving Red Riding Hood's rescue. Those elements make for an awkward mix with the Witch disappearing in a CGI cloud of smoke, or the Giant's wife literally towering above the treetops. There's a unique vision that almost gets a thorough exploration, until Marshall gets perhaps too timid about showing movie audiences the different kind of magic that gave life to this material in the first place.

INTO THE WOODS

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Into the Woods
Rated PG · 124 minutes · 2014
Official Site: movies.disney.com/into-the-woods
Director: Rob Marshall
Producer: John DeLuca, Rob Marshall, Marc Platt and Callum McDougall
Cast: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Lilla Crawford, Daniel Huttlestone, Mackenzie Mauzy, Billy Magnussen, Tammy Blanchard, Lucy Punch, Annette Crosbie, Frances de la Tour, Joanna Riding and Simon Beale
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What others are saying (7)

East Bay Express Into the Woods A tired pastiche of familiar fantasy motifs connected by a string of forgettable Broadway-style ditties. by Kelly Vance 12/25/2014
Indy Week Into the Woods puts stage magic on the screen—but not always seamlessly Disney adaptation of beloved Sondheim musical keeps the rhythms of its Broadway origins by Glenn McDonald 12/23/2014
4 more reviews...
Connect Savannah Review: Into the Woods The production looks handsome, but Marshall’s direction renders it all a bit stiff, with no real blood behind the proceedings, by Matt Brunson 12/30/2014
Boise Weekly Cinema Stocking Stuffers: Big Eyes, Into the Woods, and The Hobbit Finale All three are now playing on multiple screens. by George Prentice 12/17/2014
Portland Mercury Witches Can Be Good Into the Woods: Get into them! All the way! There ya go. by Elinor Jones 12/24/2014
Inlander Once Upon a Time Into the Woods brings a dark set of tales to the screen by Ed Symkus 12/23/2014

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