Into the Woods, rated PG

Starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Chris Pine, Christine Baranski, Tracey Ullman and Johnny Depp

Austin Family critical rating:  4 of 5 stars

Austin Family Family-Friendly rating:  5 of 5 stars

There’s much to admire and enjoy in director Rob Marshall’s movie, which tells the story of a Baker (Corden) and his Wife (Blunt), who are unable to have a child because of a curse from a Witch (Streep). The Witch gives the couple a chance to reverse the curse, which involves going into the woods and meddling in the lives of Cinderella (Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Crawford) and Jack (Huttlestone) and his Mother (Ullman).

Individual numbers are outstanding. Agony, performed by the two Princes, is hilarious, and Blunt’s Moments in the Woods is stunning.

The main problem is the film’s transition between acts I and II. By the beginning of the second act, the characters have grown disenchanted with their lives. The Baker and his Wife have a baby, but there’s something missing in their marriage; Cinderella finds life with her Prince (Pine) to be less than she’d hoped. The problem is that we haven’t seen the characters settle into their dissatisfaction. The musical’s radical notion of what comes after “happily ever after” is lost entirely.

Major character deaths carry little weight, as well, mainly because Marshall seems reluctant to take them all the way. When certain lead characters die, it’s confusing—I wasn’t sorry I lost them, because I wasn’t sure that I did lose them.

“Sometimes people leave you, halfway through the woods,” Kendrick sings in the beautiful and touching No One Is Alone. But it doesn’t carry the same significance if you don’t give the character deaths the weight they deserve.

Streep, Blunt and Kendrick are so good and so moving that it makes you wish Into the Woods made more emotional sense in its second half. As it is, this is a sometimes lovely adaptation of an incredible musical.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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