If you are a fan of Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine’s 1987 musical; it is more than likely you’ll enjoy the film. To be fair, I was never a fairy -tale devotee, especially the scary, creepy stories of the Grimm Brothers; “Into the Woods” is a compilation of “Cinderella”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Rapunzel”. A hefty, singing cast were adequate with non-hummable, redundant lyrics; every maid, matron, prince, even a skullduggery “Wolf” has a “wish”; a bludgeoning metaphor for “be careful what you wish for”; a strange message sent to five-year-old children, still believing in Santa Claus.
Directed by Rob Marshall (marvelous, “Chicago” and “Nine”) the plot catapults from one story to another: Anna Kendrick is miscast as a calculating “Cinderella”; Emily Blunt and James Corden as the “Baker” and his “Wife”, childless, in my estimation, not because of the “curse”, but lack of chemistry; Lilla Crawford was too formidable and intimidating as “Little Red Riding Hood”, she easily could have made short shrift of the “Wolf” (Johnny Depp, who long ago disappeared into Tim Burton’s imaginative galaxy); Meryl Streep as the “Witch” was the sole force in keeping me in this dark (in hue and mood) musical malarkey.
At best a visual, computer-infused smorgasbord, doomed by its length, minimal lyricism; and SPOILER ALERT: viewers are robbed of an expected, conditioned, “happily ever after” conclusion; the “Prince” (handsome Chris Pine) is only “charming”, not “sincere”; the “Baker’s” Wife, seducible; some die, others blinded; the majority forced to accept the draconian vicissitudes of venturing “into the woods”; possibly no one is “alone” but soundless, solitude is preferable to this cacophonous, implausible wizardry.