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Into the Woods: Movie Review

Hannah Goodwyn


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"I wish more than anything, more than life, more than jewels…" I wish Into the Woods was more suitable for younger audiences. With its PG rating, Disney backing, big marketing push for its Christmas Day release and innocent-looking movie trailer, newcomers to this storyline wouldn't know the adult-leaning themes Into the Woods gets into (more explanation shared below).

For those familiar with Stephen Sondheim's Broadway hit, this new musical movie—with all of its inclinations—will not disappoint. Director Rob Marshall, who translated Chicago to film, does Sondheim's beloved play a solid. Though it's a pared down version of the three-hour play, and is less dark than the stage version, the heart of the musical still beats strong.


The Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) have one wish. They wish to have a child. Unable to start a family on their own, they strike a deal with their next-door neighbor, The Witch (Meryl Streep). She promises to reverse "the curse" if they do exactly as she says. They must go into the woods and bring her back items the end up being the possessions of Jack (of beanstalk fame), Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Cinderella (Anna Kendrick). With each in the woods after their own wish, the task proves much harder than initially thought, especially as their wishes being to collide, bringing even more trouble to the dark woods.


First, let's examine the cinematic qualities of Into the Woods, the movie. Simply put, it's beautiful—from the elaborate set design and visual effects to the intricate costuming and magical film score. Audiences are in for some seriously good musical numbers—some of them quite clever.

Streep and Johnny Depp (who plays the The Wolf) are unquestionably the big names on the Into the Woods' roster, but these stars don't outshine the rest of this brilliant cast. Really, Marshall couldn't have picked a better group to bring this play to the big screen. A few surprises include Chris Pine's perfectly charming portrayal of The Prince, Blunt's turn as The Baker's Wife and Corden (a comedian of the British variety) as the narrating Baker.

As with any fairy tale, Into the Woods is rife with themes that offer audiences a lesson to takeaway from the story. Some of these are biblically aligned; some are not. Here are just a few of them boiled down to one-line lessons: 1. Your evil deeds will come back to haunt you. 2. The sins of the father may visit the son, but we all have the power to change our fate through our free will. 3. What you wish for may not turn out to be the best for you. 4. Working life out together with your spouse is better than going at it alone. 5. "Charming" men don't guarantee you a "happily ever after".

One of the story's final remarks is encapsulated in the lyric: "You decide what's right. You decide what's good." This do-what-you-want and what's-good-for-you attitude is conflicting.  There's more than that, but you get the point. Into the Woods makes a lot of them.

Officially, Into the Woods has a PG rating for "thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material". But, do not let this "kid-friendly" rating mislead you into thinking this movie is suitable for younger children. Even with the changes made to soften this version, the implied and sung-about violence (including a mother hitting her son – twice), the magical spells, a moment of marital indiscretion, short dresses revealing fishnet stockings and The Wolf's suggestive song "Hello, Little Girl" all make it unfitting for young moviegoers. Some of it may go over kids' heads, but the blinding of characters and slicing of feet (part of the original Cinderella story) are definitely upfront moments inappropriate for small ones.


Speaking from a purely "entertainment" standpoint, Into the Woods is a charming musical that cunningly deconstructs the Disney fairy tales we all know. The magic and mischief in this movie make it one suitable for pre-teens, teenagers and adults. Leave your young children at home.

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About The Author


Hannah Goodwyn served as a Senior Producer for, managing and writing for the award-winning website. After her undergraduate studies at Christopher Newport University, Hannah went on to study Journalism at the graduate level. In 2005, she graduated summa cum laude with her Master's from Regent University and was honored with an Outstanding Student Award. From there, Hannah began work as a content producer for For ten years, she acted as the managing producer for the website's Family and Entertainment sections. A movie buff, Hannah felt right at home working as's