Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Film Review: Disney's Into The Woods

Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood

Into The Woods
Released 9th January 2015

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's dark and twisted musical Into The Woods seemed an unlikely choice for a stage to screen adaptation from squeaky clean Disney. Intertwining several fairytales, Into The Woods tells a cleverly pieced together story that translates well on the big screen.

The film sees Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) fleeing from the ball, Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) being pursued by the big bad wolf (Johnny Depp), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) letting down her hair and Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) being chased down his beanstalk by the giant.

MacKenzie Mauzy as Rapunzel
We also meet the baker (James Cordon) and his wife (Emily Blunt) who are desperate to start a family but have been cursed by the witch (Meryl Streep).

Although I was vaguely familiar with the show and 'kind of' knew the score, I have never actually seen Into The Woods live on stage professionally (I saw the Regent's Park production via Digital Theatre) so came to the film from a pretty fresh perspective. Rob Marshall's adaptation isn't overly Disney-fied, but changes have been made to give the film wider appeal (certain individual stories conclude very differently). 

I've always thought of Into The Woods as a hardcore piece of theatre so I'm very intrigued to see how is received by the masses upon its release next year.

Of course the score isn't cheesy or fluffy, Sondheim has the ability to write about humanity in a way that nobody else can. His music is unpredictable and complicated, but also hugely memorable and speaks volumes. It had been some time since I last heard any of the music, yet I found my brain humming along to almost every single melody which is quite remarkable. 

The entire design of the film is exquisite - the weird and wonderful world has been captured beautifully. The orchestra sound phenomenal and, overall, the cast's vocals are strong.

"...the best stage to screen musical in years!"

The ensemble cast do a sterling job; they really couldn't be much stronger. Cordon and Blunt particularly stand out. Both act with such sincerity and inject natural humour into various scenes. Fresh from her acclaimed performance as the title role in Annie on Broadway, Crawford makes the perfect Little Red Riding Hood and I couldn't think of anyone more suited to the role of the wolf than Depp

Movie musicals star Kendrick shines as Cinderella and Huttlestone is just as strong as Jack as he was as Gavroche in the Les Miserables movie. A particular stand out number is Chris Pine (Cinderella's Prince) and Billy Magnussen's (Rapunzel's Prince) performance of the brilliant comical number 'Agony'. My personal highlight of the film is 'Your Fault' which is one of my all-time favourite musical theatre songs, it has been superbly staged in the film.

Meryl Streep as The Witch

As if the world couldn't love Meryl Streep any more she gives the performance of a lifetime in Into The Woods. Streep is almost unrecognisable as the Witch and looks set to have awards pouring out of her ears for her breathtaking performance. Every inch of Streep's body and energy inhabits the fascinating character perfectly and her rendition of 'Stay with Me' does not disappoint. 

Marshall's film adaptation of Into The Woods is respectful of Sondheim's masterpiece but has cleverly been given wider appeal. It is certainly the best stage to screen musical in years!

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Disney's Into The Woods is released in UK cinemas on 9th January 2015.

All photos by Peter Mountain. ©2014 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


  1. can't wait to see this!

  2. Glad to read another review from someone who enjoyed the movie as much as I did!