The Little Mermaid (2018)

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Little Mermaid (2018) Movie Poster Image
Watered-down retelling has poor acting, production values.
  • PG
  • 2018
  • 85 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 14 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Young viewers will learn about Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid story (and how it isn't Disney's story but a fairy tale that has been retold many times). But there's also an inaccurate portrayal of racial segregation in Mississippi during the early 20th century.

Positive Messages

Positive messages about teamwork and standing up for others. Promotes the idea of believing in your powers/gifts and defending others against danger and evil.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cam is a devoted, loving uncle; Elle is a curious, kind child. Elizabeth and a couple of the other circus acts are courageous enough to take a stand against Locke.

Violence & Scariness

One presumed death. Locke's henchman threatens a performer with his whip. In a big fight, people use their supernatural abilities to injure others. Two men fight with their fists and whips. A man is tied to a tree. Another man is pushed and plunges into the sea. The mermaid nearly dies when she transforms but isn't near the water to swim. A little girl's life also seems at stake. Sorcery involves the stealing of a soul. A couple of creepy, potentially disturbing characters.

Sexy Stuff

Longing looks and a couple of quick kisses.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Little Mermaid is a loose, live-action interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale that's set in early 20th-century Mississippi and will likely appeal to kids who enjoy all things mermaid. There's some action violence, including a high-stakes pursuit, a magical battle between two characters with supernatural abilities, a fistfight, a man who uses a whip to injure others, and a presumed death. Two circus-related characters are creepy/potentially disturbing, and at one point it seems like both a little girl and a mermaid may die from illness. But (spoiler alert!) unlike the original Andersen story, all ends well here. Romance is limited to longing looks and a couple of quick kisses, and there's no swearing or substance use. The movie has an African American supporting character, but at no point is the Jim Crow segregation of the era adhered to or signaled, creating a sanitized view of Southern life at the time.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12-year-old Written byMartha's Reviews August 19, 2018

Very disappointing take on the classic fairy "tail".

My husband got a special offer for cinema tickets through his work, for throughout the whole of July and August. We had already seen "Incredibles 2",... Continue reading
Adult Written byS.English November 26, 2018

Not based on the DISNEY movie

I like the movie. It is loosely based on the works of Hans Anderson. This is not at all based on the Disney. For those reviews comparing it to it is really unfa... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byKassieMars August 29, 2018

I stopped watching.

I really wanted to see this film as I am in love with Disney princesses, but this stuff was downright disappointing. The acting is terrible, the plotline sucks,... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bylaurentravland August 17, 2018

Worst movie EVER

When my family and I watched the reviews on this movie, we thought it would be great and waited for it to come out in theatres. We went to see it today (the day... Continue reading

What's the story?

In this take on THE LITTLE MERMAID, a grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) tells her granddaughters an abbreviated version of Hans Christian Andersen's classic mermaid tale, following it up with a "true mermaid story" of her own, which proceeds to unfold on-screen. In the early 20th century, Cam Harrison (William Moseley), an English reporter living in the U.S. with his sickly young niece, Elle (Loreto Peralta), is assigned to travel to Mississippi and research a circus act's "healing waters." Cam and Elle, who loves mermaids, fairies, and other creatures, attend the circus, where mysterious ringmaster Locke (Armando Gutierrez) announces the main event: the "living mermaid of the Mississippi." Cam interviews local residents who've been temporarily cured of ailments and illnesses by the healing waters. Cam and Elle meet the "mermaid," Elizabeth (Poppy Drayton), who tells Elle that where she comes from, there's a legend of a human girl born with the heart of a mermaid. As Cam and Elle get closer to Elizabeth, it's clear that Elizabeth really is a mermaid -- and that the ringmaster is actually a wizard who can control her.

Is it any good?

Unless your child is the breed of mermaid fan who must see everything possible about the mythological sea creatures, this is one Hans Christian Andersen retelling that families can skip. Despite veteran actors like Drayton (Downton Abbey), Moseley (The Chronicles of Narnia), Gina Gershon, and the brief presence of the legendary MacLaine in the framing story, the acting feels phoned-in, particularly among the supporting ensemble. As the villainous Locke, Gutierrez (who's also one of the movie's producers) gives a particularly amateurish performance. But it's not just the stale overacting that's the problem here, it's the cheesy special effects, the clunky script, and the off-putting historical elements.

For example, why did writer-director Blake Harris need to hire two Brits to play the principal roles when the movie is set in America? Plus, he set the film in the Jim Crow-era Deep South, only to water down the history of segregation by including a black character who's not only close friends with white townsfolk but allowed to eat in the same restaurants and celebrate on the riverboat with everyone else. This isn't the sort of diversity audiences need; this is ignoring the painful history of Mississippi's racial segregation. Bottom line? There's very little to endear most viewers to this disappointing spin on The Little Mermaid.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether there are any role models in The Little Mermaid. If so, what character strengths do you think they display?

  • Talk about the differences between this version of The Little Mermaid and other versions, like Disney's. How does this one compare?

  • What do you think about the circus/carnival setting? Why are circus folks so interesting to viewers/readers?

  • How accurately do you think the movie portrays its historical setting? Is it OK to water down uncomfortable realities in movies for kids and families?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mermaids

Themes & Topics

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