By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Rob Marshall is definitely the go-to director for movie musical adaptations.  With TV musicals such as Cinderella and Annie and theatrical films Chicago and Nine, Marshall has proven that he can present stage shows beautifully and with much flair and style.  His latest adaptation is Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award winning musical, Into the Woods.  This imaginative and inventive musical blends several Grimm fairy tales into one cohesive story and does it so ingeniously.  Not familiar at all with the original stage show, I was really taken aback (in a good way) by this movie and had such a great time enjoying the characters, the humor, and the songs. My guest to the screening, who is a huge fan of the stage show, was quite please with the movie version.

Into the Woods takes place in a world where some of the Grimm fairy tale characters all coexist.  Suffering from a family curse cast by an angry old witch (Meryl Streep), a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) cannot have the children they have desired for so long.  The witch agrees to lift the curse if they will help her remove a curse that has left her old and ugly.  The baker and his wife reluctantly agree to obtain the necessary objects required to break the spell.  They venture off into the woods where they seek out a red cape, yellow hair, a golden shoe, and a milk cow.  They encounter several people during their scavenger hunt, including Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), a boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) , and two Princes (Chris Pine, Billy Magnusen) whose wishes and desires will have major consequences for their lives and their world.

Written by James Lapine, Rob Marshall’s version of Into the Woods is an absolute blast.  The film has such an inventive take on the fairy tales and takes them in some new, bold directions.  With some hilarious humor and mostly great songs, this movie is one of the most fun times I’ve had in theaters this year.  While the recent version of Annie lacks passion and excitement, Into the Woods is chock full of energetic and applause-worthy performances by the excellent cast.

I cannot think of a single weak link among the cast members.  Streep, Corden, Blunt, Kendrick, Crawford, Huttlestone, Mauzy, Magnusen, Johnny Depp,  and other supporting cast members act and sing wonderfully here.  The real standout performance, however, is delivered by Chris Pine who portrays Cinderella’s Prince Charming.  Pine channels the bravado, swagger, and vocal cadence of William Shatner here, even more so than when he portrays Captain James T. Kirk.  His portrayal here is an absolute riot and joy to behold.

My only gripe with this movie probably has to do with one musical number titled, “Your Fault” which I found rather annoying because of the repetitive nature of the lyrics and the grating manner in which the song is performed. Despite that moment, though, I very much enjoyed this film.  It should make for a delightful time at the theater for the entire family during the holidays.  The movie is PG rated for some innuendos, but most of these will probably go over the heads of small children.  Disney and the filmmakers have taken some care in toning down some of the more suggestive content of the original musical.  My guest who attended the screening really enjoyed the movie and is certain that most fans of the stage musical will be pleased as well.






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