Rating: PG, for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material.
This is a Disneyfied, film version of the popular Stephen Sondheim musical which twists and combines several beloved fairy tales. Cinderella shares the screen with Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack of beanstalk fame, with Meryl Streep playing the witch who ties all their stories together. The forest where their paths cross is dark, gnarled and ominous — although, as the song goes, “The woods are just trees. The trees are just wood.” A lot of the heavier themes that exist in the stage production involving the younger characters and their sexual awakening have been softened here to reach a wider audience with a PG rating. The Big Bad Wolf’s big badness is implied, slightly. Overall, though, Sondheim is a lot for young viewers to take in; his melodies are complicated and his lyrics are dense. And the playfulness of the first half gives way to heavier themes of sacrifice and death in the second half. I brought my 5-year-old son to the screening with me and the main thing that scared him was the giant that appears toward the end. The witch has some frightening moments, too. This is probably best for kids around age 8 and up.