Disney is at its best when it focuses on fairy tales – look at the classic animation films they have made with Cinderella, Snow White and Beauty and the Beast for example.
But it is also great to see Disney move more into live action films – although some don’t always pay off, I think that Into the Woods is easily one of the most memorable that they have made in recent years.
Based on the musical with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine (who has also helped to adapt the book for the film), Into the Woods takes the characters from several popular fairy tales and ties them together into a surprisingly great new story involving a baker and his wife and their desire for a child.
It gets straight to the point with a song while introducing the audience to the main characters involved and the music is brisk, sharp and grabs the attention right away.
The cast that have been put together aren’t necessarily people that you can see working well together but it does really well. Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick and Chris Pine – all bring different elements to their characters and are interesting to watch.
For me, it is Corden, Blunt and Streep that really hold the plot together and really help keep the audience focused on the plot which can become lost between the songs.
As well as having a very modern attitude to fairy tales – Cinderella disillusioned about life as a royal, Rapunzel uncertain about the outside world for example, the film is able to incorporate so many of the tales seamlessly and in a way that really captures the spirit of the stories.
There is also a great balance of humour (mainly provided by Corden of course) and seriousness that is really unexpected and makes the film feel slightly less superficial.
But it is hands down the most unusual film and musical that I have ever seen and certainly is one of the stand out films that I have seen this year. I thought the way in which it has been structured was brilliant and gripping throughout.
I have to admit that it won’t be to everyone’s tastes – all the singing might become too much for some after a while and the narration sounds slightly patronising at times. But it is worth watching for at least Meryl Streep’s performance – which is brilliantly wicked and enjoyable.
It is a brilliant film that is really refreshing and enjoyable to watch.