"Be careful what you wish for". If you are familiar with the Broadway show, this film is based on, then you know what to expect. If not, be warned, this is not your typical fairy tale. I don't particular like musical versions of Broadway shows. Singing a story works better live but in this case, as he did so well with Chicago, director Rob Marshall pulls it off.
The real stars of the film are the the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim and the screenplay by James Lapine. In a very smart script, they take well known fairy tales, mash them together in a connecting story but twist the outcome. The song lyrics are so smart and clever, as is much of the dialog that it is hard not to appreciate this adult reality check of a fairy tale.
Bringing life to the songs and dialog is a wonderful cast. Meryl Streep is obviously having a blast hamming it up as the witch that sets things in motion. I completely forgive her for "Mamma Mia". Johnny Depp is terrific as the wolf in what amounts, unfortunately, to just a cameo. Emily Blunt and James Corden are very good as the baker and his wife. Anna Kendrick makes a wonderful Cinderella and Chris Pine spoofs his own image as a pompous Prince Charming. Even the kids, Daniel Huddlestone and Lillia Crawford are perfect as Jack and Little Red Riding Hood. Tracy Ullman is fun as Jack's mother and Christine Baranski also hams it up as Cinderella's evil stepmother. I could go right down the line with the rest of the cast. Everyone fits their roles perfectly.
The first half of the film is the lighter side and more traditional of a fairy tale but just when you think the you've seen the happy ending, things grow very grim indeed. It is here where the script throws our characters a reality curve ball. The film goes down a dark path where characters die and life is not all happily ever after. It's a daring move for any musical and it may very well turn off much of it's audience (especially released as a holiday film) but if you really think about the brilliance of the structure and message, you will be glad you went "into the woods".