This delightful and very entertaining film, is based on Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 stage production that brings a new twist to some of the most popular of the Brother Grimm’s fairy tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk in a musical setting. It is directed by Rob Marshall, who was nominated for Best Director for Chicago in 2002. The film features a strong cast, led by one of our greatest actresses, Meryl Streep, as the Witch.
The film begins with the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt). They have just given Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) a lot of free bread and sweets, to take to her grandmother in the woods, or so she says. They are closing up shop, when the Witch appears. The Baker and his wife long to have children, but have not been able to. The Witch finally tells them that they have not been able to because she put a curse on them as a result of something the Baker’s father did years ago. However, if they can gather three four things over the next few days – “a cow as white as milk, a cloak as red as blood, a slipper as pure as gold, some hair as yellow as corn”, and bring them back to the Witch, she will lift the curse and grant them a child. And thus the Baker and his wife set off into the woods on a search for these four items.
It is in the woods that the lives of Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf (Johnny Depp), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone, who was the street urchin Gavroche in the 2012 film Les Miserables), and his mother (Tracey Ullman), Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her stepmother (Christine Baranski) and stepsisters, and the Prince (Chris Pine) and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) all converge.
The woods change those who enter them. Of the woods, critic Susan Wloszczyna writes: “It’s a scary place where many of the characters lose their bearings, both morally, ethically and otherwise, and danger regularly lurks”.
We are told that “right and wrong don’t matter in the woods, only feelings” and “You decide what’s right, you decide what’s good”. There are also positive messages about being there for your children.
This film had excellent music (much singing), and very impressive sets and costumes. There was also some good humor slipped in throughout. I did feel that it ran a bit long at 125 minutes and could have been tightened up. Overall, it was one of the best films I’ve seen this year.