Fairy tales have captured our imaginations for centuries, from Cinderella’s lost shoe to Rapunzel’s long, golden hair. Into the Woods combines fairy tale favourites into one intertwined story, full of adventure and twists on classic tales.
The film is based on the musical written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. The story brings together the tales of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and his beanstalk. Each of these classic stories is brought together by the Baker (James Cordon) and his wife (Emily Blunt) as they attempt to lift a curse set on them by the Witch (Meryl Streep). The characters’ lives become entangled through twists, turns, surprises and song.
As usual, Streep steals the show as the Witch. Her lively performance gives soul and depth to musical scenes which might otherwise drag on. Cordon and Blunt also share excellent on-screen chemistry, and Cordon in particular gives a heartfelt and loveable performance, outshining Blunt with his earnestness. Crawford’s wide-eyed performance as Little Red Riding Hood is equally good, and all eyes are on her whenever she’s in the scene.
Unfortunately, fellow child star Huttlestone doesn’t bring the same sort of life to his character as Crawford. His Jack is awkward and sometimes unintelligible through a thick, misplaced accent. And while Kendrick’s Cinderella is good – but not excellent – Mauzy’s Rapunzel falls completely flat, as her acting consists wholly of doe-eyed moody staring.
But the worst offender by far is Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Wolf who attacks Little Red Riding Hood. Everything from his costume to his acting is cringe-worthy and completely out of place. His prancing around the screen is comical where it should be dramatic, and his rendition of the song Hello, Little Girl is like nails on a chalkboard next to all the other musical talent the film boasts.
While Streep’s Witch is the clear winner for overall performance, the two princes (Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen) shared the best scene – and song – of the film. Their performance of Agony was delightfully campy and ridiculous, and had the entire theatre rolling in laughter. The two actors played off each other perfectly, giving an over-the-top performance that was just what the scene called for. Depp should have taken notes.
While you may think you already know the stories, think again. Into the Woods is full of surprises, and is a delightful journey from beginning to end.