The stories of Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Jack and Beanstalk are woven together in this story about a baker and his wife who desperately want a child. But this movie isn't all magic and charm. It has a dark and gritty quality - potentially more true to life than your average fairy tale. Several times, the adage is repeated "All will be well", but as the witch in the movie says in response - "Not always". The message here? Be careful what you wish for.
Into the Woods is based on a musical written by James Lapine and scored by Stephen Sondheim. Be warned, if you do not like musicals then this film is not for you. The director, Rob Marshall, closely follows the musical and narrative structure of the stage production, with a few plot changes and omissions most likely due to movie length constraints (and maybe to prevent some complaints by parents with distraught children).
However, if you do like musicals then sit back and enjoy a job well done. The cast is high quality in both their singing and their acting. Meryl Streep once again shows why she is one of the most Oscar nominated actresses in the world, easily imbuing her character, the Witch, with depth and sympathy. She's already been nominated for a Golden Globe for this role, as has Emily Blunt who plays the Baker's wife. I have always had a soft spot for James Cordon (see our review for Begin Again) and, as the Baker, he shows ease and likeability even when his character has to face some home truths. A special mention also goes to Chris Pine for his hammed-up Prince Charming, especially during the song 'Agony', where the princes pine for their unattainable damsels.
Overall, I can understand some of the criticisms levelled at the movie. It is long and being a musical, it can be slow paced as the characters stop to reflect on the action with song. But it is a good example of movie adaptions of musicals. It is certainly better than Sweeney Todd and I would argue better than Les Miserable (in terms of the quality of singing).
We give it a score of 4.5/5 maimed fairy tale characters.