The Little Mermaid (2023)
By Sandie Angulo Chen,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Halle Bailey dazzles amid more intense live-action scenes.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Viewers might pick up on the names of all the world's seas, thanks to Triton's daughters. Many sea creatures are also mentioned by name.
Promotes courage, curiosity, empathy. Explores importance of not believing an entire group of people is evil or careless simply because some of them have behaved poorly or been violent. Emphasizes power of connection and alliance-building. The story still focuses on romance and sacrificing aspects of yourself to pursue romance, but Triton also tells Ariel straight out that "you shouldn't have to give up your voice to be heard." Significantly, this version takes time to show Ariel and Eric building a genuine connection with each other. And it encourages honest communication between parents and young adult children.
Positive Role Models
Ariel is smart, brave, curious, kind, as well as a bit impulsive. She makes her deal with Ursula without really thinking the consequences through. Eric is courageous, thoughtful, open-minded, loyal. He wants to explore the world beyond his island kingdom to forge alliances and support innovation. Both Ariel and Eric view their relationship as a way to bridge their worlds. King Triton and Queen Selina are each protective of their children and don't want them to be in danger. Sebastian, Flounder, and Scuttle can be silly but are devoted to Ariel and aim to help her. Sir Grimsby is faithful to the crown and encourages Eric to give Ariel a chance as a possible love interest.
Black singer/actor Halle Bailey stars as Ariel. The multicultural cast includes Spanish actor Javier Bardem as King Triton, Black actors Daveed Diggs and Noma Dumezweni as the voice of Sebastian and Queen Selina, respectively, and Chinese/Korean American actor Awkwafina as the voice of Scuttle. The merfolk and sailors/villages are of many different ethnic/racial backgrounds; a few Black castle workers/villagers have Jamaican-sounding accents, while most everyone else (including White castle workers/villagers) has a British accent. Ariel is independent and has agency, even when she's without her voice. It's explained that Eric was adopted into the royal family.
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Violence & Scariness
The big shark that chases Ariel and Flounder in the creepy ship graveyard at the beginning of the movie is scarier than in the animated version, with tons of sharp teeth. Sailors try to kill sea creatures with large harpoons in hopes of capturing a mermaid. A big storm causes Eric's ship to crash into sharp rocks, start sinking, and catch fire; sailors jump overboard, and a dog is stuck behind a wall of fire until Eric saves him, gets hit on the head, and falls into the water (where he's saved by Ariel). Talk of Ariel's mother being killed by humans many years prior. Ursula's electric eels shock sea creatures and people and incapacitate them. A trident kills a character. Ursula's undersea territory is dark and scary, with fire and creepy, grasping creatures, as well as the bones/skulls of merfolk. Her spells/curses steal Ariel's voice and Triton's power. Ursula engages in a climactic fight with Ariel, Eric, and others, becoming enormous and threatening everyone with storms and destruction. Spoiler alert: She's killed when she's run through by the mast of a shipwrecked boat. Arguments/yelling; Triton destroys Ariel's grotto.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Ariel and Eric flirt and dance but don't kiss until the very end of the movie. Eric and Ariel still have to kiss, but, due to Ursula's curse, Ariel has no memory of that being her objective, so she only remembers that she's interested in Eric, not that she has to get him to kiss her. Implied nudity when Ariel transforms into a human, though only part of her bare legs and arms are visible because her hair covers most of her body. The merfolk are more covered up than the cartoon characters, who wore considerably skimpier "clam shell" bikini tops, but midriffs/abdomens are still visible. Eric is mostly shirtless in the water after the climactic battle.
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Insults like "mer-brats," "stupid," "idiot," "slippery good-for-nothings," "bird brain," "big fat feathers." Also "shut up" once. Ariel teases Flounder affectionately, calling him a "guppy."
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Products & Purchases
Nothing on camera, but lots of merchandise tie-ins off screen -- e.g., apparel, toys, games, and accessories, including high-profile collaborations.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Sailors might be drinking rum/grog, but it's not overt.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Little Mermaid is Disney's live-action remake of its 1989 animated classic. The story is mostly the same, following young mermaid Princess Ariel (Halle Bailey), who falls for human Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) and makes a deal with sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to be human for three days in exchange for her voice. Younger kids who are familiar with the cartoon may be able to handle the more intense aspects of this version, but the live-action element definitely heightens the peril of scenes like the shark chase, the storm at sea, the shipwreck, and the big, climactic fight scene between Ursula, Ariel, and Eric. Ursula's territory is dark and creepy, with merfolk bones and skulls scattered around, and Triton and Ariel's frequent disagreements might upset sensitive viewers. Ariel and Eric flirt and dance but don't kiss until the very end of the movie; language is limited to words like "stupid" and "idiot." This version -- which promotes courage, curiosity, communication, and empathy -- explores Eric's character more than the original did, takes time to show Ariel and Eric building a genuine connection with each other, and offers more nuance in Ariel's relationship with her father and sisters.
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The Little Mermaid (2023)
Based on 36 parent reviews
Seagull say, “ “Yeah the Prince has been dropping his. He wants to, you know when humans sound nice like the penguins.”
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Amazing/ fantastic movie to watch 💖
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What's the Story?
In THE LITTLE MERMAID, Princess Ariel (singer-actor Halle Bailey) is a passionate collector of treasures from the world above, even though her father, King Triton (Javier Bardem), is biased against humans and how they treat the seas, largely because of humans' role in his late wife's death. Although she's not supposed to go to the surface, Ariel rescues Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) when he's thrown from a burning, sinking ship. She falls in love with him, and when crab royal adviser Sebastian (voiced by Daveed Diggs) lets the news slip to Triton, the king forbids Ariel from ever going to the surface again. Distraught, Ariel agrees to a deal with the devious sea witch, Ursula (Melissa McCarthy). Ariel will get a potion to turn her into a human so that she can visit her love. But in exchange, she must sacrifice her voice and earn her true love's kiss within three days ... or else spend the rest of her life in servitude to Ursula. Complicating matters further, Ursula makes Ariel forget that she must kiss Prince Eric, so it's up to Sebastian and Ariel's two best friends, Flounder (Jacob Tremblay) and know-it-all seagull Scuttle (Awkwafina), to encourage the duo to kiss before the deadline.
Is It Any Good?
Bailey's dazzling performance as Ariel makes director Rob Marshall's nostalgic live-action Disney adaptation worth watching, even with an overlong runtime. The singer/actor/Beyoncé protégé makes Ariel's siren songs her own, hits all the right notes (literally and emotionally), and is irresistibly charming, earning the film an extra star thanks to her must-see portrayal. McCarthy is entertaining as the still campy (and always greedy) Ursula, and Tremblay and Diggs are adorable as Ariel's faithful sidekick and glorified babysitter. Hauer-King's handsome Prince Eric is simultaneously broodier and cornier than his animated counterpart, and Awkwafina is, true to form, extra as goofball Scuttle. Of the four new songs (courtesy of Lin-Manuel Miranda), the Ariel-focused "For the First Time" and the second reprise of "Part of Your World" work quite well, while the Scuttle-Sebastian duet "Scuttle" is forgettable but forgivable, thanks to Diggs' brief rapping. Prince Eric's "Wild Uncharted Waters" is earnest, and Hauer-King has a good voice, but, let's be honest, viewers want to sing along to their favorites, even if the lyrics have been slightly tweaked (especially notable in "Poor Unfortunate Souls," but it's for the better).
Bailey definitely carries the film. Bardem adds almost too much gravitas to the role of Triton, while Ariel's beautiful, multicultural (they represent the Seven Seas) sisters -- even Simone Ashley of Bridgerton season two fame -- have little to do but look like an underwater version of Tinkerbell's fairy besties. It's too bad, because the screenplay could have elevated the sisterhood angle that was somewhat glossed over in the original. While none of Disney's live-action reboots are strictly necessary, there's a lot to enjoy about The Little Mermaid. Go for the nostalgia (eagle-eyed viewers will see the original voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson, in a cameo), but stay for Bailey's voice, which is a treasure as precious as Ariel's dinglehopper.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the changes between this version of The Little Mermaid and the 1989 animated film. Which changes did you like, and which could you have done without?
Why do you think some people complained about Bailey being cast as Ariel? If mermaids are fantasy creatures, does it matter what the race of the actors who play them is? How did casting Bailey help support diverse representation in the media?
How do you feel about all of the live-action adaptations of Disney animated films? Which ones have been your favorites? Which didn't work as well?
How often do you see Disney princess merchandise on sale? Does watching this movie make you more likely to buy stuff with Ariel on it?
What do you think of the original songs and updated lyrics written for this movie?
- In theaters: May 26, 2023
- Cast: Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem
- Director: Rob Marshall
- Inclusion Information: Black actors
- Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Book Characters, Fairy Tales, Music and Sing-Along, Ocean Creatures
- Character Strengths: Communication, Courage, Curiosity, Empathy
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action/peril and some scary images
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: May 28, 2023
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