Into the Woods

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Into the Woods Movie Poster Image
Sondheim's fairy tale musical is dark, complex, sublime.
  • PG
  • 2014
  • 124 minutes
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 72 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 68 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

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 & representations

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

(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.

Sex

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.

Language

One "oh my God."

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Some revelry and carousing during a celebration.

What 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.

User Reviews

Adult Written byphotojenic December 29, 2014

Dark, Depressing and Pedofile Scenes

First of all, this was not at ALL what I imagined it would be for a movie with a PG rating. I didn't expect it to be all gooey-sweet like Frozen, but I als...
Educator and Parent of a 6, 8, 12, 14, and 15 year old Written bymarcias1 December 27, 2014

Disappointed and Morally Aghast

I thought this would be a fun movie. I love musicals. It seemed like it would be cute. And it was. But it was also so very immoral. I just can't shake off...
Teen, 13 years old Written byHowling January 12, 2015

Well done and Entertaining for older kids/adults

I must say, I was nervous to see this film after reading some of the reviews already on this site. However, I found the movie to be enjoyable and well done, wit...
Teen, 15 years old Written byAlexbee1236 March 16, 2015

Unexpected R-Rated Content

This movie was just fine until a horrific scene about halfway through, when two characters begin an implied affair in the woods when they are already married. H...

What's the story?

In a magical kingdom far, far away lives a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt). Unable to have children, they strike a bargain with the witch next door (Meryl Streep), who sends them on a mission to find a handful of objects that will help them break a curse. Meanwhile, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) desperately wants to go to the ball hosted by the prince (Chris Pine), and a young girl in a red cape (Lilla Crawford) is on her way to her grandmother's house when she encounters the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp). Then there's young Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), who has to sell his cow and winds up trading her not for money but for magic beans, which ultimately leads to a big problem for the whole kingdom. They all converge as they head INTO THE WOODS.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fairy tales. How does Into the Woods play with the standard formula? Do any of the characters actually live happily ever after? Is that OK?

  • What audience do you think this movie is intended for? It's about fairy tale characters, but is it for kids? Do you think young children can understand the nuances of Sondheim?

  • Are the characters role models? Can you relate to their dilemmas and problems? What do they learn over the course of the movie? What choices and mistakes do they make, and how does that affect their story?

  • How are parents depicted? Are the mothers and fathers in the movie good parents? What does it take to be a good parent?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love musicals and fairy tales

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