Movie review by
Grace Montgomery, Common Sense Media
Rumpelstiltskin Movie Poster Image
'80s musical fairy tale is slightly scary, a little slow.
  • G
  • 1987
  • 84 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Meant to entertain, not educate.

Positive Messages

"When you're good, and smart, and kind of heart, there's nothing you can't win." Bragging can have unintended consequences. Positive messages are somewhat undermined by superficial focus on beauty and royalty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Not a lot of role models here. Katie is determined to marry a prince (any prince!) but does eventually realize you should marry for love.

Violence & Scariness

Threats by the king and queen to kill Katie if she can't turn straw into gold; a somewhat sinister elf who wants a boy for a slave; a couple of moderately suspenseful and slightly scary scenes.

Sexy Stuff

Talk of love and marriage, some very mild flirting, and two kisses.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Partygoers drink mugs of beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rumpelstiltskin is an '80s musical retelling of the classic fairy tale, which was released as part of the Cannon Movie Tales series. Although the movie does contain a lot of fairy tale stereotypes (beautiful, poor maiden who wants to marry a prince, love at first sight), there are some moderately positive messages, about the dangers of bragging and that having a good heart will help you conquer all. The content is mostly clean, with some mild sexy stuff (a couple of kisses, some flirting) and one scene that shows beer drinking. Some very young kids may find Rumpelstiltskin -- who's portrayed as sinister and scheming -- and the wicked king and queen somewhat scary, though the film is definitely less frightening than other '80s fantasy flicks such as Labyrinth and Willow.

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What's the story?

The beautiful miller's daughter, Katie (Amy Irving), dreams of living a life of leisure and marrying a prince. Her father, also believing she's destined for great things, spins a tall tale that Katie is so talented that she can spin straw into gold. The rumor quickly spreads through the kingdom until it reaches the ears of the greedy King Mezzer (Clive Revill), who demands Katie come forward and spin him some gold. Stuck in her father's lie, Katie is in despair in the dungeon until a scheming elf, Rumpelstiltskin (Billy Barty), arrives on the scene promising to help. In exchange for her necklace, he spins the gold for her, then returns again on the following night for another round. But alas, on the third night, with nothing left to trade, Katie promises her firstborn child to Rumpelstiltskin. Finally, after bringing the spun gold to the king, Katie is set free, weds the prince, and is set to live happily ever after -- that is, until Rumpelstiltskin returns to collect on her promise.

Is it any good?

This silly, somewhat creepy fairy tale was almost a winner. Amy Irving is sweet and believable as the naive miller's daughter, and Billy Barty is a great Rumpelstiltskin, delivering all his lines in catchy verse. But the music, which should be one of the main selling points of the film, is lackluster and forgettable and sometimes even laughably bad or just plain weird (especially in King Mezzer's "I'm greedy" ditty). The movie is also kind of slow and plods along in the first half. The traditional tale is somewhat thin and would have benefited from some side plots or further character development.

Parents looking for a fairly clean introduction to fantasy flicks for their kids might enjoy watching Rumpelstiltskin before diving into darker, more complex films in the genre. And those who grew up in the '80s may enjoy revisiting old memories and watching it for nostalgia's sake.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about bragging. Do you think it's ever OK to brag? What consequences can result from bragging?

  • Do you think Katie should have pretended she could spin straw into gold? Or could she have told the truth? Is it ever OK to lie?

  • Do you like this retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale? Why, or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fairy tales

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