Sunday, December 21, 2014

Into the Woods Adoption Movie Review

Characters from several fairy tales meet each other in this year’s Disney Christmas release, Into the Woods. A baker and his wife head into the woods in the hopes of reversing a curse which has left them infertile. Little Red Riding Hood is there to feed her grandmother – and has to deal with a wolf. Rapunzel is in the woods, hidden by the witch posing as her mother. Cinderella runs through the woods to escape from a prince. Their stories all intertwine, as the baker and his wife need something from each of them to become parents.

The Adoption Connection *Spoilers the rest of the way*

The baker and his wife are infertile. Their neighbor, a witch, cursed their house to get revenge against the baker’s father, and decreed that no child should be born in that house. She has changed her mind, and now tells the baker and his wife what they must do to reverse the curse. Infertility is a prevalent theme in the movie. The baker and his wife sing, “I wish for a child.” When they learn that the baker is cursed with infertility, he apologizes to his wife. The whole plot of the movie is driven by their attempts to become parents. Eventually, the baker’s wife becomes pregnant – she swells to 6 months size immediately upon the reversal of the curse. However, after giving birth, the baker’s wife dies, and the baker is left to “be both father and mother.”

Many characters experience the loss of a loved one. Jack’s mother dies. So does the baker’s wife. Cinderella’s father has died long ago, and she now seeks refuge from her cruel stepmother. Red Riding Hood is also alone in the world. Together, the four of them become a family.

Strong Points

A family does form, in spite of the hardship that they’ve experienced in their own individual lives.
One character encourages forgiveness over revenge. It also encourages us to try to understand those we consider our enemies. One character sings, “You are not alone. Someone is on your side. Someone else is not. While we’re seeing our side, maybe we forgot that they are not alone.” I like that message.


There’s a lot of loss and death in this movie. It’s par for the course in fairy tales, but it could be surprising to parents who think they’re bringing their kids to a Christmas-day-released movie about Little Red Riding Hood and friends. Here’s a quick rundown: The baker’s mother died. His sister is hidden from him. He is cursed with infertility. His father abandoned him. The baker’s wife dies after having an affair. Jack’s mother dies. Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother are eaten (but saved), Cinderella’s father has died and left her with a cruel stepfamily. Her mother has died as well, and she mourns regularly at a tree she planted in her mother’s honor. Rapunzel was taken from her parents by a witch, later, the witch blinds Rapunzel’s boyfriend.
People who have suffered through infertility may be triggered by some scenes in this movie. A witch tells an infertile woman, “There’s nothing cooking in that belly now, is there, and there never will be unless you do as I say.” Later the witch says, “I decreed your family tree would always be a barren one.”  She tells the family that if they obey her, “I guarantee a child, as perfect as child can be.” The witch continually pressures them, asking “Do you want a child or not?” and threatening the family that if they don’t obey her quickly, “The child you wish for will never see the light of day.” The family engages in some unethical acts in order to try to become parents. The baker struggles with some of this, but his wife urges him, “If you can’t do it for yourself, can’t you at least do it for me?”

Weak Points

As is traditional, Cinderella’s stepmother is horrible. She is abusive to Cinderella, and even cuts off parts of her daughters’ bodies when she believes it will be helpful. Rapunzel’s kidnapper-posing-as-mother cuts her hair as a punishment.

Jack’s mother loves him, but she also hits him pretty frequently.

In one scene, Little Red Riding Hood is confronted by the wolf. Although he wants to eat her, the song he sings could also easily be interpreted as very creepy. Some of those lyrics, “Look at that flesh, pink and plump, hello little girl.” Red does wisely reflect on the situation later, saying “I should have heeded (my mother’s) advice… Nice is different than good.”

The baker has a sister, but never finds out who she is. The witch hid her away. The baker’s father abandoned him after his mother died.

A giantess’ husband dies while chasing Jack. She wants revenge.


Into The Woods seems best-suited for teens and for adults. It’s probably too scary for some kids, and could be very triggering to children who have lost loved ones. It could also be rough for adult viewers who have ongoing grief related to infertility.

Questions for Discussion

What do you wish for?

To learn more about Jack and Rapunzel, Click over to my reviews of Tangled and Jack the Giant Slayer.

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