Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
Based on the stage production of the same name, Into the Woods is a fun and endearing musical adventure from Walt Disney Pictures. Featuring an ensemble cast packed full of faces both familiar and new, there is plenty here for moviegoers of all ages to enjoy.
The scope of the narrative is actually quite epic, unfolding across a colourful and well developed fantasy land. The plot takes characters from several fairytales and throws them into the same fictional universe. Their well known stories are then reimagined and adapted to impact and converge with one another in clever ways that drive the action forward.
What we are presented with here is really two story arcs, with one flowing out of the other. Each one has a beginning, middle and end unto itself, while both are fused together by a famous plot device from one of the fairytales incorporated into the proceedings.
The first half of the movie is all glitz and glamour, gliding by at a swift pace and dealing with some familiar elements. Following a climax about halfway through, the second hour takes a darker and more emotional turn, sending the narrative in a more original and unpredictable direction.
There are plenty of rousing and memorable musical numbers along the way, with the dialogue more often than not being delivered through song. The main cast give some wonderful vocal performances, with the best pieces usually being the more interactive ones.
Some of the highlights include an entertaining opening sequence that introduces most of the lead characters while setting them on paths that are destined to intersect; an amusing duet between the princes in which they argue about which of them is in more “agony” over their respective love interests; and a delightful exchange between Cinderella, The Baker, Jack and Little Red Riding Hood over who is to blame for their misfortunes.
Of course in a movie that boasts such a vast and impressive cast, there is always the danger that it will feel overcrowded. That is by no means the case here though. The script does a fantastic job of balancing and developing its various characters. Everyone gets their moments to shine.
Anna Kendrick is charming as ever, delivering a standout performance as Cinderella. She seems at home within the musical genre, stealing the show whenever she breaks out in song. Her vocal work here is stunning.
Chris Pine plays Cinderella’s Prince, endowing the character with the perfect balance of arrogance and charisma. He approaches the role in a tongue and cheek manner that works quite well.
Meryl Streep’s portrayal of The Witch is appropriately menacing. She succeeds in crafting a compelling villainous persona, surrounded by enough mystery and mysticism to keep her intriguing throughout.
James Corden and Emily Blunt enjoy some great on screen chemistry as The Baker and his wife. Child actors Lilla Crawford and Daniel Huttlestone impress as Little Red Riding Hood and Jack, respectively. And Johnny Depp has a suitably unsettling turn as The Wolf, even if his appearance ultimately doesn’t extend much beyond cameo status.
Overall, this is an enchanting and captivating musical tale of heroes, villains, fantasy and magic. The plot is well organised, the songs are perfectly executed and the cast give stellar performances. Altogether, it makes Into the Woods a fun and thoroughly enjoyable cinematic experience.
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