A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that younger kids might be distressed by the opening scene of this direct-to-DVD prequel to Disney's The Little Mermaid: A pirate ship is seen descending on a happy mermaid family, and Ariel's mother is captured. The scene is emotional -- King Triton and his daughters are scared, and Triton in particular is anguished -- but the event isn't explicit; only a boat and ocean waves are shown. The rest of the movie is very kid-friendly.
What's the story?
Ariel's family life was the very model of mermaid domestic bliss. She and her sisters wiggled and giggled as daddy Triton (voiced by Jim Cummings) and mommy Athena (Lorelei Hill Butters) danced and sang in their underwater kingdom -- and then Queen Athena is captured by pirates, and the now-joyless Triton bans music from the kingdom. When Ariel (Jodi Benson) discovers an underground underwater jazz club where the sea nightlife bops, she re-learns the magic of music. But with a furious father, a dastardly nanny, and a flock of bickering teenage sisters to cope with, Ariel is soon in hot water. It's up to her -- and fish friends Flounder (Parker Goris) and Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) -- to bring harmony back to her family.
Is it any good?
For a direct-to-DVD movie seemingly made to capitalize on The Little Mermaid's popularity, ARIEL'S BEGINNING is actually pretty darn good. Romance-happy kids may find the lack of a prince in this tale a weakness, but this story is a nice break from the typical formula. In lieu of amour, music becomes the sought-after but forbidden aspiration, making room for much deep-sea musicality and witty visual humor with sea critters jamming on inventive undersea instruments.
Parents will particularly enjoy Sebastian's rendition of Harry Belafonte's infectious Calypso "Jump in Line" -- a real show-stopper. Kids will also appreciate the amusing sibling rivalries and spats between Ariel's six very different mermaid sisters. As a bonus, Sally Field takes on the role of villainous nanny Marina del Rey with juicy malice.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Ariel's disobedience and King Triton's unreasonable rules. Why does he ban music? Was it right for Ariel to disobey him? Families can also discuss how this movie fits in with the original Little Mermaid. Does it change how you see that story at all?
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