Movie review: "Into the Woods" feels like it's missing something onscreen

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Disney’s star-studded adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s fairy-tale mashup musical “Into the Woods” is probably a can’t-miss option among the target audience, although director Rob Marshall’s movie musical history is mixed bag.

Marshall’s first big-screen adaptation (“Chicago”) even won this Grinch-y critic over, but he also made the hot-mess-y “Nine.” With the Sondheim/Disney combo, he’s obviously going to play it safe here.

In “Into the Woods,” Sondheim intertwines the plots of numerous and beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales around the story of a childless couple (James Corden and Emily Blunt) who must procure items from these famous tales to lift a curse placed by a witch (Meryl Streep).

The familiar characters lead to some great big-name casting, most notably Anna Kendrick as Cinderella and Johnny Depp as the Wolf of Little Red Riding Hood fame. There is talent and likability permeating this cast.

And yet Marshall never quite wows us. “Into the Woods” always feels like it’s just about to make a next-level jump. It never quite does.

Part of the blame is the nature of the adaptation. A musical that stages a lot of the iconic moments of its fairy tales offstage makes sense, but onscreen it can play like a movie that’s missing some scenes.

Though it’s only around two hours, “Into the Woods” also could use an intermission to rest up for the shifted gears of the second act. The star power will be enough to keep fans of the musical happy, but others can probably pass.

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

"Into the Woods"

Opens Christmas Day

2 stars out of 4