A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Teamwork is necessary for success in life, and especially in a marriage. Choices have consequences, sometimes unexpected, and you have to accept them. Love can't be forced; it just has to happen. In order to grow, you have to be brave and take chances, but you also have to consider others' safety and well-being. Family can come in unexpected forms. Parenting is a tricky business. It's not worth pointing fingers when trouble arises; better to deal with the problem together.
Positive Role Models
Main characters are all well-known fairy tale icons -- presented here as generally well-meaning but also very flawed. A baker and his wife work together toward a worthy common goal, but they deceive and steal to get there. A prince is charming but easily distracted. A would-be princess dreams of grandeur but is scared of change. A witch loves her child (whom she stole) but treats her like a jailer. A boy takes big risks to save a friend but causes larger trouble.
Violence & Scariness
(Spoiler alert!) Central characters die, and others mourn their loss; children are left without parents. Frequent, heightened sense of menace and peril. A lascivious wolf preys upon a young girl; he eventually eats her. A man rescues her by cutting the wolf's stomach open (portrayed with shadows). Villagers attempt to slay a giant after it lays waste to the kingdom (discussed but not shown); the giant's movements cause tremors, falling trees, and other scary situations. The witch can be scary; she comes and goes very abruptly (sometimes with loud noises/smoke) and yells a lot. Jack's mother hits him on the head a couple of times; he's in peril several times. He also has to say goodbye to his beloved pet cow; the cow dies but is resurrected. A prince is cast into thorn bushes and blinded. A baby could be seen as being in peril; his father appears to abandon him because he doesn't think he's cut out to be a dad, but he changes his mind. Cinderella's stepsisters and stepmother are cruel and vicious; the stepmother mutilates her own daughters to further their cause with the prince. Birds come after their eyes.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing and flirting. Some suggestive song lyrics. Implication that two characters have a tryst in the woods; both are married to others at the time. Some cleavage-baring/racy-looking outfits on Cinderella's stepsisters.
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One "oh my God."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some revelry and carousing during a celebration.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Into the Woods is a beautiful, clever, frequently funny, sometimes somber, and ultimately uplifting take on classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales, based on the beloved musical by Stephen Sondheim. Its presentation of characters like Cinderella, Prince Charming, and more as very flawed people may be confusing or upsetting for younger kids; there's lots to think about here, but it's pretty emotionally complicated stuff. A lascivious wolf preys on a young girl, children lose and are separated from their parents, sympathetic characters die, handsome princes aren't all they appear to be, and there's no promise of happy ending for anyone. Meryl Streep's wicked witch might terrify younger kids, and giants wreak havoc upon the land and terrorize its residents -- but for the most part, the scares are mild. There's no strong language to speak of (though some of the brilliant lyrics are tricky to follow); characters do kiss, and there's an illicit tryst between a couple who are married to others. But teamwork is valued, family is found in unexpected places, and characters tackle moral dilemmas in ways that will resonate with viewers. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Fans of Stephen Sondheim's beloved musical have nothing to fear from this finely tuned and beautifully rendered cinematic version. The set will draw you in; the music, as expected, will leave you at once melancholy and thoughtful; and the acting will surprise and please. The weakest link, if he can be called that, is actually Depp, who could have benefited from a touch of understatement. But almost everyone else is a delight: Streep, especially -- despite having been in scores of memorable movies for decades -- reminds us that she has the power to morph into something we've yet to see. She amazes. And Pine proves he has a gift for comedy in the hilarious song "Agony."
But best of all is Sondheim's music: It's complicated and compelling. This is no run-of-the-mill children's musical. Though it may sport a stylized (and gorgeously rendered) set, the music grounds Into the Woods in a truly human -- and humane -- scale. Musicals don't often teach nuanced life lessons. But if, as one song goes, "children will listen," they'll hear plenty of words to guide them here.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.