Once Upon a Mattress
By Tracey Petherick,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Disney reboot has fun playing on fairy tale stereotypes.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Younger viewers may be inspired to read the original fairy tale that the movie is based on.
Courage is a key theme to the movie, as are perseverance, and teamwork. The importance of standing up for yourself, having confidence, and not allowing others to push you around. Some sexist remarks, but these are used to ridicule traditional fairy tale roles.
Positive Role Models
Princess Winnifred -- or "Fred" -- is feisty, brave, and self-confident, deliberately avoiding the princess stereotype. The Queen is manipulative and wicked but clearly depicted as a baddie who gets her just desserts. In a nod to age diversity, the princess and prince -- roles that are traditionally given to young actors -- are played by actors in their 40s. One of the characters is mute, communicating in mime -- sensitively handled, although there is one "joke" around deafness.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex is implied when a character refers to a romantic picnic that led to them becoming pregnant. A mute father and his (adult) son have a "talk" about the latter's wedding night via mime -- sweetly done but could raise questions about reproduction.
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One instance each of "idiot," "bloody," and "shut up." "God" is also used as an exclamation on two occasions.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink wine, becoming tipsy but soon recovering. Character is given "opium with warm milk" to help them sleep.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Once Upon a Mattress is a good-humored fairy tale Disney remake -- and previously a 1950s Broadway musical -- with some cheeky jokes and a "wicked" queen. The movie stars Tracey Ullman as Princess Winnifred and Carol Burnett as Queen Aggravain -- Burnett played Princess Winnifred in the original Broadway version. Some flippant sexist remarks poke fun at the traditional roles of female fairy tale characters. But there are few real stereotypes other than the down-trodden king and the self-satisfied knight. The queen is controlling and condescending, babying her son although he is clearly in his 40s -- but this is played for laughs. There is one joke about deafness, with a character shouting unnecessarily at a mute character. There is very occasional use of mild language, such as "idiot," "bloody," and "shut up," and "God" is used as an exclamation. Lady Larken (Zooey Deschanel) becomes pregnant after a "romantic picnic" and there is a discussion about what is expected on a wedding night -- the conversation is mimed. Overall a strong cast, plenty of humor, and a good heart make this solid family entertainment.
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Where to Watch
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Once Upon a Mattress
Based on 3 parent reviews
Colorful, fun musical with one “skip” scene
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Lighthearted and silly romp
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What's the Story?
ONCE UPON A MATTRESS is set in a fairy tale kingdom where manipulative Queen Aggravain (Carol Burnett) disapproves of every potential bride for her middle-aged son Prince Dauntless (Denis O'Hare). Unfortunately, the rest of the kingdom are also banned from marrying until the prince weds, which leaves Lady Larken (Zooey Deschanel) in a spot of bother -- she's already pregnant! Her beau, Sir Harry (Matthew Morrison) sets off to find Prince Dauntless the perfect bride, returning with the feisty Princess Winnifred (Tracey Ullman). But will she gain the queen's blessing by proving she is a "real" princess?
Is It Any Good?
This made-for-TV Disney reboot of the fairy tale classic The Princess and the Pea is simple, silly but nevertheless entertaining family fare. The scheming queen -- effortlessly played by Burnett (Annie) the original Princess Winnifred in the 1950s Broadway musical -- is kitschy and camp, while the obviously fake scenery and props give the whole movie the feel of an intentionally amateur dramatic performance. O'Hare is endearing as Prince Dauntless, a man-child completely under the thumb of his mother, while Ullman as the incorrigible Princess Winnifred or "Fred" brings a burst of energy to the story.
There are rousing musical numbers, slapstick comedy, and a solid cast, including Elf's Deschanel and Glee's Morrison. So although Once Upon a Mattress lacks the quality of a theatrical release, it just about delivers on entertainment -- feisty, fun, and farcical. Even tweens and teens might find themselves having fun ... in between the occasional eye roll.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about gender roles in Once Upon a Mattress. How does the movie play with gender stereotyping in fairy tales? Do you think the way princesses were traditionally depicted differs to books and movies today? Talk about which princess characters go against the gender stereotype and how.
Talk to your kids about how much influence parents should have over their children's choices. Can parental advice and support ever go too far? Think about the benefits and challenges of arranged marriages in real life.
If you were a princess -- or prince -- what kind would you be? How would you use your wealth and power?
- On DVD or streaming: December 18, 2005
- Cast: Carol Burnett, Tracey Ullman, Denis O'Hare
- Director: Kathleen Marshall
- Studio: Disney Efx
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Fairy Tales, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: December 9, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
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