I was dubious about the quality of this work before entering the cinema. Although I hadn't seen the musical, I knew that Disney's quality ranges from very good, to cringe-worth bad. What convinced me to see it in the end was solid early word-of-mouth, and curiosity of what they did with the strong cast that was attached to the film.
The first half of this movie is very good. Solid performances by Anna Kendrick, James Corden and Emily Blunt keep the fantasy elements in check, and the mise-en-scene by director Rob Marshall is interesting, vibrant and colourful. While it took me a while to take Meryl Streep seriously as the wicked witch, she eventually ended up bringing a large, booming presence to the role that was impossible to ignore. Chris Pine's over the top performance as the Prince was one complaint I had with the performances, but this is minor, as I think he did the best he could with the cartoonish role, and it was a character far more suited to the stage.
Another thing the movie does well is the music. This sounds obvious, given that the movie is a musical, but many modern musicals have had boring soundtracks that are bland and perfectly inoffensive in every way. Here, some or most of the songs are at least interesting or entertaining to listen to, and advance the story.
The story is quite clever, as it combines multiple fairy tales to make one complete story. It takes a while to take off, but when it does it is a fun ride for the first 80 minutes, and a pleasant movie experience for the whole family.
Unfortunately, after the promising start, the movie keeps going after its natural end. The movie goes on for about 20 to 40 minutes long, which again, may have been better and more natural in the stage play. After the movie reaches this point, it becomes far harder to take the cheesy moments seriously.
Without spoiling anything, there are some parts of the storyline that are repeated just for the sake of continuing the multi-storied arc (The Jack and the beanstalk story is a noticeable example of this). This would have made the movie shorter, and if they'd done this I think that the movie would have been a very good 100-minute experience. The whole Rapunzel storyline also feels very pointless, and, as it leads nowhere, feels like it should have been left out completely, almost like it is forgotten leftovers that belong in an extended edition.
Overall, this is a very good modern musical for the first 80 minutes of the 120-minute runtime. Good musicals are far more rare in modern times than they used to be, and so I was enjoying the experience of this film for the first two-thirds. Unfortunately the weak third-act meant that the movie seriously fizzled out, and the movie ends up leaving a sour taste in my mouth.
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