“INTO THE WOODS” My rating: B-
124 minutes | MPAA rating: PG
“Into the Woods” is a terrific big-screen musical right up to the point when it suddenly stops being great and turns disheartening and annoying.
In this it is exactly like the stage version of this Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine collaboration, which I saw in previews in New York just before its 1987 debut. I’m talking 90 minutes of wonderful followed by 30 minutes of meh. So meh, in fact, that it damn near ruins all the good stuff.
Director Rob Marshall, who more or less singlehandedly resurrected the movie musical with 2002’s “Chicago,” comes charging out of the gate here, delivering a movie that works musically and cinematically and which strikes just the right tongue-in-cheek tone in revisiting the fairy tale cliches of our childhoods.
In a village just outside the woods the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) yearn for a child. Their cronish neighbor (a gleefully scenery-chawing Meryl Streep), widely believed to be a witch, reveals that in his childhood she put a curse of infertility on the Baker. Now she offers to lift the hex if the couple will obtain for her several items needed for an incantation that will restore her youth and beauty.
Among the things sought in this scavenger hunt: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.