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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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 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
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Longing looks and a couple of quick kisses.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
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.