From the opening scene (and song,) I had a sneaking feeling that “Into the Woods” wasn’t going to work for me. The musical sequences in this film are ponderous and transitionally awkward, while the plot lacks cohesion. And while I appreciated the fact that dark elements from the original fairy tales that “Into the Woods” portrays are upheld in this reimagining, I’m still not sold on a extremely pedo Johnny Depp ambling around as the ‘big bad wolf’ stalking a prepubescent Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) singing about deliciously plump little girl flesh. I know the original tale has some predatory and not exactly savory implications, but puh-leeze! Did Johnny Depp think this role of all things would give his flaccid career a jumpstart?
In this unevenly written attempt to mesh multiple classic fairy tales, ‘Baker’ (James Corden) and ‘Baker’s Wife’ (Emily Blunt) (Nice to know they put so much thought into the lead protagonists” names eh? 😛 ) want to conceive a child desperately, and a witch (played by Meryl Streep) materializes in their bakery one day to say that the reason that Baker is shooting blanks is because of a curse that befell Corden’s father (Simon Russell Beale) before him. The witch proceeds to info them that they need to obtain four magic artifacts in order to break the curse. First. a cow as white as milk, which belongs to a bubble-headed boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone.)
Second a cape as red as blood (see if you can figure that one out.) The other two, I will leave you to find out for yourself should you decide to watch the movie. Only when the couple have acquired the magic objects can they bear a child. And when the lives of various fairy tale characters intersect in the woods, nothing will ever be the same.
First of all, I cannot believe that Meryl Streep got nominated for an academy award. I mean, she’s not bad. ‘Not bad.’ She’s certainly not award material. As it become kosher to hand Streep an Oscar every time she goes to get her car keys (no offense to Mrs. Streep, who is talented as well as nontraditionally beautiful.) She just didn’t rock my world here. The entire cast was less than spectacular, though Corden comes off best as a well-intentioned buffoon.
The real problem, however, was the plotting. Big things seem to lead to more big things with little cohesive connection. The storyline is pretty convoluted (though not, to be fair, as convoluted as the later years of “Lost.”) In other words, I knew what was happening, it just didn’t flow well. The climactic fight scene was a joke- a few stones are slung and a massive villainess who should have been epic wordlessly drops to her demise. Several major deaths also prove to be majorly underwhelming. One character simply gets pushed to the ground (or it seemed to me) and is dead in the next scene. Why? It’s a plot contrivance, that’s why.
There are moments of magic, but they’re few and far between in this rather silly movie. If you like fractured fairy-tales, watch “The Princess Bride,” “Shrek,” or the very entertaining TV series “Once Upon a Time.” While “Into the Woods” might enthrall some, I found it to be a disappointing misfire.