The film begins with Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) cleaning her house as she sings about her wish to go to the king’s festival. We then meet the young Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) who wishes his cow would give him milk. We also meet the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt), who is not able to bear children. Cinderella’s stepsisters and stepmother mock her for wanting to go to the festival. Jack’s mother (Tracey Ullman) wishes her life was better and she had more money. We then meet Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) who goes to the Baker’s shop wishing for some treats for her grandmother; she eats most of the treats while she skips around the store.
Cinderella’s stepmother pours a bowl of tiny lentils into the fireplace and tells her she can go to the ball if she can pick up every last one. Cinderella calls on her bird friends to help her with the task and they fly down the chimney. Meanwhile, Jack’s mother demands he goes to town and sells the barren cow, who he calls Milky White and treats as a friend.
Little Red continues collecting food in the bakery, gathering more and more for herself. The Baker’s wife is sweet and loving towards her but the Baker calls her a thief; he isn’t much of a parental type. Little Red continues on, “into the woods” to Grandmother’s house.
Cinderella tells the birds to fly back to the sky, then goes to straighten up her stepsisters as they prepare for the ball. One stepsister slaps Cinderella after she ties her hair too tight.
There is a knock at the bakery door; they have run out of bread (after Red Riding Hood’s visit) but the patron doesn’t care and blows the door off. It’s the witch (Meryl Streep) who lives next door; she promises the Baker’s wife she will be able to bear a child if she follows her orders. The witch explains that in three day’s time, a blue moon will appear and then her previous curse can be undone. The witch tells them that when the Baker was a child, his father would sneak into her garden to appease his pregnant mother’s cravings (which is part of the Rapunzel fairy tale). We see a flashback of the witch catching the father in the garden; she promises to take his wife’s unborn child, revealing to the Baker that he had a sister (this will later be revealed as Rapunzel although they never interact). She then tells them that the reason she is cursed with ugliness is because the Baker’s father also stole magic beans from her garden, which she promised her mother to never let out of her sight. When their baby is born, she steals the child and hides her away; the witch then curses the Baker to have a barren family tree (why his wife cannot get pregnant). She also reminds the Baker that when his mother died, his father deserted him.
Jack is sent to the next village to sell the cow since everyone in their part of town knows that the cow is barren. He is told to not come back with less than five pounds. He, too, goes “into the woods.”
The witch tells the Baker and his wife that if they want the curse reversed, they have to bring her some ingredients for a potion a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, a slipper as pure as gold. She needs it by midnight in three day’s time when the blue moon will come, which only happens every 100 years. If they can bring her the ingredients, she promises them a child.
Having completed her chores and picked up the lentils, Cinderella asks her stepmother if she can go to the three-day festival but is told she is too dirty and wouldn’t impress the prince. Her daughters and her set out in their coach.
The Baker’s Wife tries to get her husband to take his father’s old coat but he refuses; six magic beans spill out and he takes them. They debate about whether the wife should come along; he wants to do it alone but isn’t very good at remembering the four items he needs to collect. Nearby, Cinderella decides to visit her mother’s grave to tell her her wish of going to the festival. Now the Baker, Cinderella, Jack, and Red Riding Hood all venture into the woods.
Cinderella visits the grave of her mother, where she has planted a branch, which her tears have watered and grown into a huge tree. Cinderella tells her mother about her wish and her mother appears in the tree. She transforms Cinderella’s rags into a ball gown and her shoes into gold slippers.
Now Little Red is spotted in the woods by a Wolf (Johnny Depp). He sings “Hello, Little Girl,” salivating over her. She blows him off, having been told to not be misled by her mother and telling him she’s on her way to her grandmother’s house. Red admits to having eaten all the treats and half a loaf of bread so she picks flowers to balance out the missing treats.
Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) sings a lovely soprano song, trapped in her tower, which catches the attention of a handsome prince (Billy Magnussen). Meanwhile, the Baker sees Red Riding Hood in her cape. The witch appears and tells him to take the cape. The Baker manages to remove the cape from Little Red but she responds by screaming at the top of her lungs for a long while. The Baker rushes back to her and returns the cape. He then has trouble remembering all of the items he needs to collect but is reminded by his wife, who has ventured into the woods to help. They argue again about her being included. They are stopped abruptly when they see Jack with his cow. They try to convince Jack to give them his cow but they have no payment except for the six beans in the Baker’s pocket. The wife tells Jack they’re magic beans, worth a pound each, and tells him there are five of them (she keeps one behind). Jack happily trades the cow for the five beans, on the condition that he gets Milky White back when he repays the loan. The Baker sends his wife back to town with the cow.
Rapunzel is visited in her tower by her mother, letting down her hair on command. The prince watches this and prepares to try the same. At her grandmother’s cottage, Little Red enters to see the wolf in her grandmother’s bed, wearing her nightgown. She tells him he has big eyes and he quickly eats her up. The Baker continues into the house, in pursuit of the cape, and discovers the wolf. He slices him open, rescuing Little Red and her grandmother, who were swallowed whole. The grandmother complains that the Baker isn’t helping her skin the wolf to make into a coat; he tells her he’s a baker, not a hunter. Little Red sings “I Know Things Now” about how foolish she was for trusting the Wolf, and we see a flashback of how she was eaten by him (shown as a sort of Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole). She gives the Baker the red cape for his help, pointing out that her grandmother is going to make her a new one from the wolf’s skin.
At home, Jack’s mom chastises him for being stupid and selling the cow for beans. She throws the beans into the dirt they all shoot out a spark -- and sends him straight to bed.
Cinderella rushes home from the ball, chased by another prince (Chris Pine) and his steward. She runs into the forest and hides from him, meeting the Baker’s Wife, now with Milky White. Cinderella explains she’s running from the prince and the Baker’s Wife is surprised she’s running from royalty. When the prince arrives, Cinderella hides and the Baker’s Wife sends him in the wrong direction. She asks Cinderella about the prince, who she is in awe of. Cinderella sings “A Very Nice Prince,” explaining that she fled because she isn’t quite sure how she feels about him. The Baker’s Wife tells her she would give anything to be in Cinderella’s shoes and then realizes she is wearing gold slippers. She tries to take them but then Milky White rushes off and she is torn between what to grab. Cinderella hurries away and the witch appears and tells the Baker’s Wife that the first of three midnights has passed. She tells her to get the cow… but he has disappeared into the woods so now she has gone from one item (and almost two) to none.
In the morning, Jack’s Mother wakes up to a giant beanstalk growing in her backyard. Jack rushes into the woods and finds the Baker again. He sings “Giants in the Sky,” explaining that he has come back with five (giant-sized) gold coins that he stole from a giant. He gives them to the Baker, repaying his debt so he can take his friend, Milky White, back. The Baker tells him he can’t sell Milky White so Jack, thinking the payment is not enough, promises to come back with more riches from the Giant’s kingdom. He sets off to climb the beanstalk again.
The Baker and the Baker’s Wife reunite. He excitedly tells her he has the cape so now they have two of the items; she confesses she lost the cow. They argue about this and the witch appears and tells them to find the cow. The Baker tries to give her the one item they do have the cape but she tells him she can’t touch the items or they will be tainted (why she is having them find them for her). The Baker and his wife apologize to each other and he sends her back to the village. On her way, she stumbles upon the two princes, revealed to be brothers, who both talk of their new loves (for one, it is Cinderella; the other, it is Rapunzel who he has now visited multiple times). They sing “Agony” while splashing around a waterfall, each boasting about how hard their lives are, having fallen in love with unobtainable women. The Baker’s Wife watches in awe, attracted by the charming princes. When Rapunzel’s prince mentions loving a girl in a tower with hair as “yellow as corn,” she sets out to grab a new ingredient.
The Baker’s Wife asks Rapunzel to let down her hair; she asks if it is the prince approaching and the Baker’s Wife responds affirmatively, in a low voice. Rapunzel loops her hair over a hook at the top and lowers it below. The Baker’s Wife has no way to extract the hair so she just yanks at it; a piece comes off and she rushes away with it.
The Baker’s Wife runs into Cinderella again and grabs at her shoes again. Cinderella rushes away. The prince rolls by and the Baker’s Wife tells him she was trying to hold the girl for him. Meanwhile, the Baker stumbles upon the stepsisters in their carriage. He pulls out an ear of corn from his bag and compares it to their hair; they shove him away and he falls on top of a large white rock which ends up being Milky White. His wife stumbles upon him and now, with Rapunzel’s hair and Little Red’s cape, they have three of the items. He tells her that together, they can surely get the gold slippers. The Baker’s Wife is touched that he is including her and they sing “It Takes Two” about him becoming a better husband. Jack arrives with a golden egg and tells them about a hen that lays golden eggs, that lives at a palace in the clouds, that he visited via the beanstalk. He attempts to buy Milky White backbut the cow suddenly dies. The second midnight passes and now they are two items short a cow and the slipper and only one more day.
The next day, the witch is spying on Rapunzel’s tower when the prince arrives. She creates a thicket; the prince’s horse is startled by the thorns and he is thrown off, straight into the branches, blinding him. When the witch climbs the tower, she is furious with Rapunzel who confesses her new love. The witch tries to get her to stay loyal to her, singing “Stay With Me” with its refrain of “children must listen.” Rapunzel now reveals her wish to go out and see the world. To punish her for wanting to abandon her, the witch cuts off her hair and banishes her to a deserted island.
Jack runs into Red Riding Hood, now wearing a coat made of a wolf’s skin and more wary of strangers as she harbors a knife for protection. He tells her about the kingdom of the giants and the harp that sings the giant to sleep. She doesn’t believe him so Jack tells her he will return with the harp to prove he is telling the truth.
Jack rushes down the beanstalk with the harp, pursued by the Giant. He hurriedly slices down the beanstalk, killing the giant as the stalk topples over.
The Baker sets out into the next town to buy another cow with the gold coins Jack has given him. She sets out to find Cinderella again, so she can secure her golden slipper.
That night, Cinderella returns home from the final night of the ball, pursued by the prince for the third time. But he has spread pitch on the stairs so that her feet get stuck and she can’t run. Time slows to a halt him frozen at the top of the stairs as she sings “On the Steps of the Palace,” trying to debate whether to stay and become a princess or go back to her own life where she can at least retain her identity and doesn’t have to pretend to be someone she’s not. She settles for something in between, leaving behind a slipper as a clue. She rushes off into the woods; the prince doesn’t immediately pursue, telling his steward she can’t get far with just one shoe.
In the woods, Cinderella runs into the Baker’s Wife again. She desperately tries to convince Cinderella to give up her slipper, offering her the last magic bean in exchange. Cinderella tosses the bean aside, calling it nonsense it sparks fire like the ones outside Jack’s house. The Baker’s Wife tells her she needs the shoe to have a child; she doesn’t have time to explain further as the prince is approaching. The Baker’s Wife convinces Cinderella to take her shoes so she can run faster; Cinderella does and finally gives the Baker’s Wife her gold slipper in return.
The prince gets to Cinderella’s house and asks the stepsisters to try on the slipper. Florinda’s foot is too big so the stepmother cuts off her big toe to make them fit. She is accepted as the mysterious girl he fell in love with at the ball but then the steward points out the blood in the shoe. Lucinda’s foot is also too big so the stepmother cuts off her heel; she promptly faints from the pain. He asks if there is another girl that resides there; they try to talk him out of seeing Cinderella but when she arrives, he recognizes her and takes her as his bride. As punishment for their cruelty, Cinderella’s birds peck out the stepsisters’ eyes, blinding them.
On a deserted island, Rapunzel has now been banished. She sees her prince traveling around, blindly, on horseback. She travels through a swamp filled with snakes to him. After seeing him blind, she cries; teardrops fall into his lashes and he can see again. He praises her haircut.
It is almost midnight as the Blue Moon begins to emerge. The Baker runs into his wife; he has a white cow he got in the neighboring village. They now have the cape, hair, slipper, and cow. The witch appears but is discontent, revealing the cow is not white; the Baker has covered it in flour. The Baker points out they had a real white cow but she died. The Witch tells him she can bring her back to life. They lead her to Milky White. Jack’s Mother joins the group, reuniting with her son. The witch resuscitates her. The witch now tells him to feed the items to the cow so they give Milky White the gold slipper, the red cape, and a piece of Rapunzel’s hair. Jack goes to milk the cow but it comes out empty. The witch tells them they have the wrong ingredients. The Baker’s Wife goes over the ingredients, admitting she took the hair as yellow as corn from a maiden in a tower; the Witch realizes that it is Rapunzel’s hair and she has touched it, thus leaving it unusable. To substitute, Jack suggests using the hairy corn silk from the piece of corn they’ve brought for comparison. It works and Milky White produces milk. The witch drinks it and transforms into a younger version of herself with blue hair; the Baker’s Wife becomes pregnant immediately.
Everyone seems to have a happy ending the witch reversed the curse. Cinderella marries the prince. Jack and his mother now are wealthy after selling the golden egg. The Baker and his wife have a baby boy.
But at the wedding of Cinderella and her prince, the earth shakes and everyone falls to the ground. The prince tells the crowd that it’s just one of many earthquakes and they should all return to their villages. But as they go into the woods to return home, the paths have all been altered from the quake. The Baker and his wife can’t find their way home; they run into Red Riding Hood who says that her village collapsed and her mother is missing. She is going to live with her grandmother but can’t find anything familiar. They tell her they’ll help her find her way; the wife hands her baby off to her husband who seems to have issue with being a father.
The steward appears in the woods with the stepmother and stepsisters. The castle has been destroyed and the kingdom is under attack. They decide to go back to the village but then another earthquake happens. They now realize that it’s actually a giant woman causing the ground to hake. The giantess demands they deliver the boy who cut down the beanstalk and killed her husband. Jack’s Mother arrives then, looking for Jack. She is told the giant’s widow is looking for him, too. Jack’s Mother begins arguing with the Giant, telling her to leave her son alone. The Giant begins to stomp her feet, putting them all in danger. The steward holds her back; she trips and falls, knocked unconscious. The steward and stepsisters convince the Giant that Jack is hiding in the steeple tower. The giant sets off. The baker encourages them to stick together but the stepfamily say they’re not cut out for battle and they leave. The witch tells them the village has been destroyed, only leaving a handful of beans in her garden. She convinces them to find Jack to keep the witch from killing everyone.
The witch makes her way to Rapunzel’s tower, now a pile of rubble. Rapunzel is there with her prince and she doesn’t recognize her now transformed mother. She agrees to go away with the prince and the witch tries to punish her with some magic and then realizes, along with her transformation, she can no longer cast spells (shrieking “Oh My God” at the discovery). He recognizes her as the woman who blinded him; she points out she was the one who locked her in a tower. Rapunzel says she never wants to see her again. The witch sings “Children Will Listen.”
The Baker and his wife wander through the woods, searching for Jack. They decide to go in different paths, counting 500 steps to keep from getting lost. The wife leaves their son with Red Riding Hood.
The Baker’s Wife runs into Cinderella’s prince and asks if he’s there to slay the giant. He doesn’t even know about the giant and instead is fixated on seducing her (despite her mentioning her husband). He points out the giant could crush them at any time. She is reluctant to accept his advances given they both are married to others. They begin to kiss as Cinderella’s birds watch on.
Meanwhile, the Baker stumbles upon Cinderella at the grave of her mother, disguised in her old rags so she could escape the palace unescorted. The tree has been destroyed by the “earthquake” and now Cinderella can no longer communicate with her mother. The Baker tells her about the giant and convinces her to stay close with him for safety.
Cinderella’s prince is now kissing the Baker’s wife. She is excited that she has been kissed by a prince but feels guilty for cheating on her husband. She sets back out to return to the group but the giant’s footsteps are heard in the distance. She runs for safety but ends up falling off a cliff.
The Baker, Little Red, and Cinderella are waiting for the Baker’s Wife to return. The witch appears with Jack, who has the Baker’s scarf with him, revealing he found the Baker’s Wife (dead) at the bottom of a cliff.The Baker blames Jack for the Giant’s presence and all the characters begin to blame each other for the predicament they’re in (i.e., Red Riding Hood dared Jack to go back up the beanstalk, Cinderella threw away the magic bean that created a beanstalk which allowed the Giant’s widow to return to them). The witch hushes them, singing “Last Minute.” She tells them if they want to place blame, they can blame her but just give her the boy (so he can be sacrificed to the giant’s widow). They refuse and she tells them they’re so good and nice; she’s not nice, she’s the witch. Near the end of the song, she throws the remaining beans to the ground where they spark; losing them means that the youthful spell will be reversed. The ground swells and swallows her into a sinkhole.
Jack, Little Red, and Cinderella admit they are partially to blame. The Baker is bitter towards them and goes to leave, handing his baby with Cinderella. He says the child will be much happier raised by a princess than him. Deeper into the woods, now alone, he stumbles upon his father (a premonition) who admits that he abandoned him because of guilt and then points out he’s doing the same thing to his child. The baker breaks down and cries.
Little Red, Cinderella, and Jack begin to scheme on how to kill the giant. The Baker returns. He helps them devise a plan to use Jack as bait to lure the giantess. The birds fly overhead and Cinderella is told about her prince’s infidelity.
They all set out; Cinderella’s prince rides by her on horseback. She tries to hide her face (disguised in rags) but he recognizes her. She asks him why he strayed. He tells her he was raised to be charming, not sincere. She tells him her father’s house was a nightmare, his palace was a dream, and now she wants something in-between. They say they will always love each other and then go their separate ways.
They make it to a tar pit and Jack climbs up a tree. Little Red Riding Hood tells Cinderella she thinks her mother and grandmother would be upset with her if they knew she was going to kill someone. Cinderella tells her they’re only hurting a giant who’s done a lot of harm but Little Red points out the giant is a person, too, and they should show forgiveness. Cinderella sings “No One Is Alone.” Simultaneously, the Baker tells Jack that his mother died after an accident with the steward. Jack says he will kill the steward in revenge. The Baker sings “No One Is Alone,” as well, to Jack. They become surrogate parents for the two newly orphaned children.
The Giant approaches and they point out Jack. But when she tries to attack him, she is stuck in the tar pit. Jack and the Baker hit her with stones in slingshots. Cinderella’s birds peck at her. She lunges at Jack but he dodges her; she falls and lands with a thud, just like her husband.
They’ve defeated the giant but have no home to return to. Jack and Little Red Riding Hood suggest moving in with the Baker. Jack then invites Cinderella. She agrees, saying she can help clean the house, which she actually enjoys. The Baker takes his baby and sings that maybe he wasn’t meant to have children. His wife’s spirit appears as she sings “Children Will Listen” to him. The Baker tells the story of “Into the Woods” to his child while the witch sings, too. They walk through the newly altered forest, to the destroyed village, as they all sing “Children Will Listen.” The final line is the witch’s “Careful the tale you tale, that is the spell, children will listen.””
*CUT TO THE CHASE*
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“Into the Woods” is a pretty faithful adaptation of the Broadway musical, only watered down in terms of its depiction of death in the second act.
A baker and his wife venture out into the woods to secure four items on a witch’s request, in exchange for her releasing a curse on the wife’s infertility. After many mishaps, they are able to secure a red cape (Red Riding Hood), a gold slipper (Cinderella), and blonde hair (Rapunzel). When these items are fed to a white cow (Jack and the Beanstalk), it creates a potion, which the witch drinks to turn young again; she keeps her promise and the wife becomes pregnant; Cinderella marries her prince and all seem happy.
Everything goes downhill when the widow of a giant that Jack killed returns to the village, threatening to destroy everything unless they turn the young Jack over to her. While attempting to save themselves, many characters die, leaving behind only a handful of survivors the Baker, Jack, Red Riding Hood, and Cinderella, who become a surrogate family for each other.
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