Inspired by the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales of "Little Red Riding Hood", "Cinderella", "Jack and the Beanstalk", and "Rapunzel", Into the Woods is a fantasy film directed by Rob Marshall, adapted to the screen by James Lapine from his and Stephen Sondheim's Tony Award–winning Broadway musical of the same title. The story is focused on a childless couple who finds themselves cursed by a vengeful witch. In their attempt to break the evil spell, the couple gets mixed up with various characters of other fairy tales. The cast includes, amongst many others, names such as Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, and Johnny Depp.
Disclosure – I have not seen the original stage version from which this film was adapted, thus my review is based solely on the screen version. I understand several concessions were made in the adaptation; that the original stage version was much darker, with more characters dying as well as blunt hints at sexual innuendos whose morality the Disney company, which produced and distributed the film, found inappropriate for its target audience.
While I enjoyed the film’s concept I found the plotline to quickly turn messy. The large number of strong characters, shadow the couple who were to be the axis by which the tale evolves. Thus, about half way through the film, I found myself impatiently looking at my wristwatch, waiting for the end titles to roll. My teenage kids, on the other hand, enjoyed the film much more than I did.
On the positive side I can highlight the acting, with Meryl Streep being as engaging as ever, followed closely by a terrific Emily Blunt. The production value is high and the music befitting.
Whether Into the Woods suffers from a poor adaptation or issues existed already in the original stage version, the film lacks the charm of a fairy tale and the simplistic wits of the original Grimm Brothers.