A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
This title intends to entertain rather than to educate.
A mixed bag. The movie promotes positive social messages in Sofia's attempts to adjust to her new surroundings and make new friends. On a few occasions, Amber intentionally sabotages Sofia with pranks that wind up hurting her feelings, but she eventually changes her tune and makes amends. The story perpetuates stereotypes about how princesses should look and act, and Sofia's ambiguous cultural heritage opens the door for viewers to make assumptions about it.
Positive Role Models
Sofia demonstrates courage and fortitude in her attempts to adjust to her new surroundings. Her mother and step-father make themselves available to help guide her on a couple of occasions, but it's an unexpected visit from Cinderella that offers her the best advice for finding her niche. Amber starts off as Sofia's enemy, but when they find common ground, they're able to start fresh.
Violence & Scariness
The story's villain never comes across as dangerous, but he does use magic to cast a sleep spell on a roomful of people to steal a powerful amulet.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
In one scene, girls get swoony in the company of a young prince.
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Products & Purchases
Disney practically wrote the book on turning media faces into marketing machines, and there's no reason to doubt that Sofia will be the same. Already she can be found on her own website, and with five new songs interspersed in the movie, a soundtrack likely will follow.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess is Disney's first princess movie marketed toward kids as young as two years old, and serves as an introduction to an ongoing series. Taking center stage is Sofia, a fair-skinned, blue-eyed girl whose possible Latina heritage (first proclaimed, then later denied by Disney) sparked controversy even before the movie's premiere. Regardless of how the discrepancies between her physical appearance and her mixed-race background are received by grown-up audiences, what kids will see is that Sofia's journey from an average girl to a princess touches thoughtfully on life lessons like trying to fit in, meeting new challenges, blending stepfamilies, and conquering insecurities. Aside from officially cornering the age market on fairy tales with this little princess, this movie doesn't break any new ground in content and in actually perpetuates some stereotypes about what a princess (and, by association, a well-bred girl) is and does. Kids who are familiar with the classic fairytales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty will especially enjoy how this movie incorporates characters and plot points from those as well. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Disney's lofty goals for Sofia the First are evident from the get-go in this charming tale, as it toes the line between outright racial diversity and political correctness. It also turns the tables on the stereotypical "evil stepmother" role, and casts a heroine who packs all of the princess-y traits viewers have come to expect into a smaller -- but no less adorable -- package. Clearly they nailed the basics in this darling tot with the voice of an angel who finds the courage to face her new challenges without losing herself in the process. As she manages to win over everyone around her right down to her jealous stepsister, Sofia reminds kids that strength of character and perseverance are the hallmarks to success in endeavors of every size and shape.
But this makes it all the more disappointing that the overall movie package doesn't live up to the gleaming example set by its star. Where Disney could have dropped at least some of the stereotypes and made Sofia even more of a relatable girl-next-door (especially considering her youth), it instead clad her in floor-length ball gowns for school; devoted time to watching her learn to dance, pour tea, and even wave like a princess; and closeted the integral character of her mother for much of the story, save for some trite advice and precious few encounters with her daughter and her new step-kids. And then there's that touchy issue of ethnicity, which casts some shadows on Disney's celebrated recent move toward diversity in princess characters like Mulan, Pocahantas, and Tiana.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.