Australian Council on Children and the Media

Into the Woods

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Not recommended under 10; parental guidance recommended 10-12 (disturbing scenes and themes.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Into the Woods
  • a review of Into the Woods completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 23 December 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes
Children 10-12 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes
Children 12 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Into the Woods
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, violence and infrequent coarse language
Length 125 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

A baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) live next door to a wicked witch (Meryl Streep). As a result of being wronged by the baker’s father years earlier (he stole magic beans from the witch’s garden) the witch has been cursed to look like a crone. In revenge for being wronged, the witch abducted the baker’s infant sister Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) and placed a “blue moon curse” on the baker causing him to be sterile. 

Fortunately, the curse on both the wicked witch and the baker can be lifted if the baker and his wife go into the woods and retrieve for the witch four very specific items. These are a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, a slipper as pure as gold, and hair as yellow as corn. This has to be done before the moon turns blue in three days’ time.

During their three day search of the woods the baker and his wife encounter several characters from fairy tales, all of whom are engaged on their own missions. These include a young farm boy named Jack (Daniel Hutt Lestone) out to sell his cow; Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) running from her Prince Charming (Chris Pine); Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), who forgetting her mother’s advice runs afoul of the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp). Meanwhile, the tower-bound Rapunzel is being wooed by Prince Charming’s equally charming brother (Billy Magnussen).

The film sees the baker and his wife overcoming difficulties as they seek out each of the items on the witch’s list, with the end of the film leading to unexpected consequences for all of the film’s characters.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Fairytales; magic and the supernatural

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains some fantasy action violence, some mild violence against children and some inferred deaths. Examples include:

  • In a few scenes a mother slaps her young son across the head and face and pulls him by the ear. In a later scene we see a man throw the same woman to the ground.
  • A step mother bullies her step daughter Cinderella. In one scene she calls Cinderella a “clod” then slaps her across the face, knocking her to the ground.
  • After a man steals a young girl’s cloak she screams out loudly and then kicks him hard in the shins.
  • One scene depicts the Big Bad Wolf lying in Grandma’s bed dressed in her clothing. When Little Red Riding Hood enters the room she sees the wolf and screams. The wolf leaps out of the bed and the scene ends, but it is inferred that the wolf devoured Little Red Riding Hood; we hear her calling out inside the wolf and a later scene depicts her sliding down the wolf’s throat. In a later scene a hunter enters the room and raises a hunting knife above the wolf’s stomach with the scene inferring that the hunter stabbed and killed the wolf, cut open his stomach and released Little Red Riding Hood and her grandma who both appear uninjured.
  • A witch hurls lightning bolts from her hands at a prince who is riding away from her on his horse. The lightning bolts hit the ground causing a forest of giant thorns to rise up out of the ground. The prince rides into the thorns and falls from his horse face first into the thorns. In a later scene we see the prince with a scratched face and a bandage across his eyes and hear that he is blind.
  • Little Red Riding Hood threatens a young boy with a dagger.
  • In one of the film’s more macabre scenes, the mother of the two ugly sisters cuts a toe from her daughter’s foot in an attempt to fit the daughter’s foot into a shoe; we see the mother stuffing a cloth into her daughter’s mouth to stifle her screams and then see the mother holding a knife and bending down, but we do not see the toe actually cut off. A short time later we see the mother perform a similar act cutting the heel from her other daughter’s foot.                    
  • In one scene a young boy uses a sling shot to throw a rock at a giant woman. The rock hits the giant in the forehead and she falls to the ground dead.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are a number of scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The wicked witch in the film appears as an ugly crone with long blue tangled hair, yellow ugly teeth, unnaturally long fingers with talon-like nails and an aged pale face with dark shadowed eyes. She appears and disappears in swirl of dust and a flash of light. In one scene the witch transforms from a beautiful women into the crone.
  • One scene depicts Cinderella’s fairy godmother as part tree and part women, entangled in spider web silk.
  • While Little Red Riding Hood is walking through the woods we hear the sounds of a wolf howling. The wolf looks like a man and is dressed in human clothing but has a tail, wolf like ears and hands with black claw-like fingernails. When the wolf talks to Little Red Riding Hood he uses a menacing tone, referring to her as a “meal” and her flesh as being ‘tender, plump and delicious’.            
  • One scene depicts beans thrown on the ground instantly spouting and growing into a gigantic beanstalk that reaches up into the sky and through the clouds. When a woman sees the giant beanstalk she screams out loudly.   
  • In one scene after a young boy climbs a giant beanstalk and steal a magic harp, we hear the loud threatening voice of a giant as he climbs down the beanstalk in pursuit of the boy (we do not see the actual giant). The boy takes an axe and chops down the beanstalk as the giant climbs down. The ground shakes as the giant hits the ground but we do not see the giant fall.
  • In one scene a cow dies and is then bought back to life.
  • We hear that a giant in an act of revenge destroys a kingdom and hear of people being killed. We see the images of castle towers crashing to the ground and mayhem and destruction.  In a later scene we see images of a giant woman walking through a forest shouting, “Where is the lad who killed my husband”. 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

The film contains some sexual references. Examples include:

  • In one scene we hear reference made to a baker and his wife as being childless with the comment made “Nothing cooking in that belly”. A further comment is made “Your family tree will always be a barren one”.  
  • A man says to his wife that it will take the two of them to make a child.
  • When a man is questioned by a woman about being unfaithful, the woman asking the man “If you loved me why did you stray?” The man responds with “I was raised to be charming not sincere”.  

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some partial nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Women dress in revealing clothing.
  • In a comic scene, the princes rip open their shirts to reveal bare chests.
  • A few scenes depict a man kissing a woman on her lips.
  • After a witch enacts a spell on a woman, the woman instantly becomes pregnant and in the next instant we see the woman holding a new born baby.
  • A man flirts with a married woman, suggesting that “Anything can happen in the woods”.  He then passionately kisses her several times. The man further suggests “Right or wrong doesn’t matter in the woods”, and kisses the woman again. The woman then makes reference to vows and promises.

Use of substances

Nothing of concern

Coarse language

The film contains some occasional mild name calling and exclamation. Examples include:

  • “son of a fool”; “clod”; ‘dim-witted’; “mongrel”; “Oh my god”

In a nutshell

Into the Woods is a fantasy musical comedy based on the award-winning Broadway musical by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim.  It has a star-studded cast and is likely to appeal to teens and adults. Parents of younger children should note that the film does contain some dark material, adult themes, and scenes and characters that may disturb younger children. It is also over two hours long. The film is not recommended for children under 10 with parental guidance recommended for the 10-12 age group.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • While risk-taking may be exciting, it is better to be safe.
  • Don’t be scared - be prepared.
  • In a relationship it takes two people to make changes.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Forgiveness:  Characters in the film forgive those who did them wrong.
  • Acceptance of others faults and idiosyncrasies.    

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