After months of hype, Into the Woods, director Rob Marshall’s film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical, hits theaters on Christmas day.
Even though the film boasts an ensemble cast, most of the attention has been focused on everyone’s favorite actress, Meryl Streep, who plays a witch who inadvertently brings together many of Brothers Grimm’s beloved characters, including Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), and Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy).
While bewitching, Streep doesn’t run away with the film. Sure, she gets to sing some of the musical’s best numbers--and she did get one of the film’s two acting nominations at the 2015 Golden Globes--but there are at least seven other A-list stars who make use of their screen time.
And with so much buzz surrounding Streep, the film’s best moments are hers to lose. With that in mind, we rank the scene-stealing potential of the ensemble cast from most to least likely.
1. Chris Pine
As Cinderella’s prince, Pine (gleefully) hams it up opposite of his princess, Kendrick. Seemingly aware that he’s in an Oscar-bait, camp spectacular, Pine adds an extra wink to the self-centered, handsome prince. But it’s his performance of “Agony”--a duet with Billy Magnussen, who plays Rapunzel’s Prince--that truly takes the cake. Splashing in the water and playfully ripping open his shirt, Pine laments about his fleeing damsel. The real agony was not being able to comfort this prince.
Watch your back, Streep!
2. Christine Baranski (with Lucy Punch and Tammy Blanchard)
Bit parts, like the Cinderella’s stepmother and sisters, Florinda and Lucinda, are what scene-stealers are meant for. In the film, Baranksi--a theater-trained actress who cut her teeth in a Kennedy Center production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd--enjoys every moment of evil as the withholding fill-in mother to Cinderella. Considering she was unable to train with the rest of the cast--she reportedly had to beg The Good Wife to let her make the movie--she is flawless in every one of her (far too few) scenes. And both Blanchard and Punch make good on their comedic timing as the evil stepsisters.
3. James Corden
While it’s easy to argue that Corden and Blunt were miscast as the Baker and his wife, the two are a delightful pair that ground this musical of fractured fairytales. As the film’s emotional center--and truly the ones with something to lose--they balance the film’s louder moments with a number of touching scenes infused by Corden’s panic over becoming a father. His final number--an ensemble with Blunt, Crawford, Kendrick, Streep, and Daniel Huttlestone (Jack)--brings the film’s moral about responsibility together.
4. Anna Kendrick
Probably the most straightforward of the film’s fanciful performances, Kendrick brings her musical talents--also on display in Pitch Perfect, its upcoming sequel, and The Last 5 Years--to the role of Cinderella. While everyone plays to the audience, Kendrick keeps things cool with a very technical delivery, though, her song, “On the Steps of the Palace,” gives the character more autonomy and control of her own fate. It’s a welcome change that fits with Kendrick’s modern portrayal.
A gallant effort!
5. Emily Blunt
Eight years after The Devil Wears Prada, Blunt is reunited with Streep, who once again curses the poor woman to a life of misery. This time, Blunt is more playful as the Baker’s Wife, who seeks to life the curse so that her and her husband (Corden) can have a child. While she’s not a trained singer, the actress scored the only other acting Golden Globe nom holds her own in the film’s ensemble numbers. (Among her best are the “Prologue” and “It Takes Two.”) It’s just all the shrilling and fretting that turns comical.
Maybe the third time’s a charm.
6. Daniel Huttlestone
Unfortunately, the two child roles are the most thankless. Huttlestone--last seen as Gavroche in 2012’s Les Miserables--shows promise of becoming a fine theater actor, but can’t elevate his part beyond a bratty child intent on climbing the beanstalk and getting ahold of stolen treasure. In another few years--he's only 15--Huttlestone might turn into something of an Aaron Tveit or Eddie Redmayne, two of Les Miz’s breakout stars.
7. Lilla Crawford
We’re not in the business of shaming young actors aspiring to someday join the ranks of Streep, but Crawford’s robotic delivery and mannerisms as Little Red were off-putting. It was all too Bryce Dallas Howard in The Village with a visual cue from 2009’s Orphan. Though, she didn’t ruin the “Prologue,” where she’s delightfully stuffing her face with too many cookies and manhandling baskets.
8. Johnny Depp
When the film finds itself following Little Red Riding Hood, you can practically hear a voice over saying, “And now, Mr. Depp as the Wolf. Please hold your applause.” In full costume, Depp completely transforms on screen like he does with every character. This time he’s a zoot suit wearing devious creature creeping on an unsuspecting little girl, who may or may not be the target of this sexual predator depending on how you read the subtext.
9. Billy Magnussen
Trying to ride on Pine’s coattails as the film’s other prince, Magnussen wants to impress Rapunzel (and audiences alike) with his charming good looks. But he can’t even steal the scene from Pine in their duet of “Agony.”
10. Tracey Ullman
Always a welcome presence, Ullman makes most of her very little screen time. She’s funny, funny looking, but gone before you can’t say “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
11. Mackenzie Mauzy
A true damsel in distress--when not locked in a tower, she’s lost in the swamp--Rapunzel doesn’t have time for her mother (Streep) or anyone for that matter. At one point she just takes off into the woods.
Girl, you’re drunk… with fear!