I was really looking forward to this movie since I absolutely love Tim Burton’s adaptation of another Stephen Sondheim musical, Sweeney Todd. Despite Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine) being the director of Into the Woods and Disney being the studio behind it I was still very excited for another dark musical.
The first half of the movie delivers and met most of my expectations. It’s very fun, fast paced, and interesting. There are some stand out performances, especially from Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood. Lilla has great comedic timing and she is simply a joy to watch (and listen to). Johnny Depp is also quite funny in his glorified cameo as the Wolf (although I do not like his costume). Emily blunt and Anna Kendrick are also very good. But the actor that nearly steals the show from Lilla is Chris Pine. Wow, I was blown away!! I never thought much of him until now. Not only can he sing amazingly well, he is also hilarious!!! The duet “Agony” that he sings with Billy Magnussen is by far my favorite part of the movie and it alone is worth the price of admission.
As much as I liked the first half of Into the Woods I really disliked the second half. The story suddenly gets extremely dark. Which would have been fine if any of it made any sense. The transition is so blunt and hardly explained that the whole film suddenly falls flat. There’s this whole bit with a giant that made me yawn and look at the time continuously. I think that too much of the original musical was cut out of the second half.
I was also quite disappointed by the songs in Into the Woods. Other than “Agony’ nothing stood out to me, except for maybe the opener. I was surprised by this because I find all the songs in Sweeney Todd very catchy and engaging. But here the songs are kind of boring. And while Meryl Streep gives an okay performance I didn’t find her particularly good.
Overall Into the Woods is an okay film. I think the film would have benefited greatly from a more visually strong director. Rob Marshall is nothing special if you ask me, Chicago is okay, but not amazing. I couldn’t help but wish as I was watching it that Tim Burton had directed it since he did such wonders with Sweeney Todd. Rob Marshall’s bland directing and the lazy screenwriting during the second half keep Into the Woods from being really different and interesting. Any commentaries on “happily ever after” fall flat. Into the Woods gets 6 charmings out of ten sinceres.