Sally Jane Black’s review published on Letterboxd:
The musical, as I am familiar with it, is a story about the power of stories that acknowledges its own story with a fierce breaking of the fourth wall. There is a narrator that at first seems outside of the story, but gets dragged in by the characters as it progresses. Though this was not my favorite moment in the musical, it certainly seemed important. Completely disregarding this aspect of the original in favor of simplicity seems to be a major mistake.
I can't hide my pedantry. Leaving out little things that I like will always bother me. The loss of a few of the songs seems a sad state of affairs to me because they lost two of my favorites. But the loss of the meta-narrative aspect (or at least, the considerable dumbing down of it) paired with the erosion of the music as the film progressed and the missing moments of lyrical humor all combine to make this yet another major disappointment in the annals of adaptation. I did not expect this to be great, or even good, but I did not expect it to be quite as poorly done as this.
In comparison to the filmed play from the early 90s, this Disney outing's other major flaw is a lack of Bernadette Peters. Replacing her with Meryl Streep is not just bad casting, it's bad stunt casting. Anna Kendrick was similarly weak, while the children had normal child actor flaws (esp. that dumb baby*). Emily Blunt proved to be the best among the cast, though my favorite song by the baker's wife was gone, meaning I didn't get to hear her justify the beans. I might be biased toward the character, however.
As per how the songs stack up, most of them are okay. The kid playing Jack doesn't quite have the pipes for it, and Johnny Depp's wolf is hit-or-miss in terms of creepiness. The movie starts out strong, keeping almost everything in, but slowly and surely dropping things. This leads to the nastiest tease in the film, where the first version of "Agony" is one of the film's highlights, hammed up and fun, and then the second version, which has the second best punchline in the film, is entirely left out. And they totally blow "Your Fault," probably because as I mentioned, Meryl Streep sucks.
December count: 88/100.
* Okay, there was nothing wrong with the baby.