Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s stage musical, in which modern anxieties about sex and death descend upon classic fairy tale characters, is a caustic parable about the illusory nature of childhood innocence, so the idea of a cleaned-up, kid-friendly Disney adaption sounds misguided at best. Taken on its own terms, it isn’t terrible; Rob Marshall, who previously directed the neutered movie version of Bob Fosse’s Chicago, has an undeniable talent for directing musical numbers, and the production design effectively re-creates the look of classic Disney animations. But with the exception of Meryl Streep (as the Witch) and James Corden (as the Baker), the cast is bland, and the bombastic orchestrations tend to steamroll the nuances of Sondheim’s score. If you want to see Into the Woods done right, track down the American Playhouse presentation of the 1987 Broadway production, which is far funnier, scarier, and more heartfelt than this.
Into the Woods
PG • 2 hours 4 min • 2014