The Little Mermaid parents guide

The Little Mermaid Parent Guide

Halle Bailey has a great singing voice, but it isn't enough to compensate for forgettable music, poor pacing, and a surprisingly bland visual design.

Overall C+

Theaters: A young mermaid with a burning curiosity about the world above the ocean makes a deal with a sea witch to gain legs and walk amongst the humans. But every deal with a witch has a catch.

Release date May 26, 2023

Violence B+
Sexual Content A
Profanity A
Substance Use A

Why is The Little Mermaid rated PG? The MPAA rated The Little Mermaid PG for action/peril and some scary images.

Run Time: 135 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Young mermaid Ariel (Halle Bailey) is entranced by the human world, collecting any terrestrial treasures that find their way into the watery depths. Merpeople and humans have had a rocky history, so Triton (Javier Bardem), King of the Sea, has forbidden his daughters from ever going to the surface. But when a ship hits a rock and starts to sink, Ariel disobeys her father and saves the handsome Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) from drowning. Now with a greater desire to be on land, Ariel turns to Ursula the Sea-Witch (Melissa McCarthy), who promises her the legs she’s always dreamed of - for a price.

My absolute disdain for Disney’s live-action remake enterprise is well documented. I think most of these productions are creatively bankrupt and taint the studio’s good name in the blind pursuit of box office revenue. Cinema is supposed to be art, not shot-for-shot soulless remakes of productions that were originally infused with talent and heart.

Setting my biases aside, I really tried to give this one a chance. But unfortunately, this remake doesn’t have enough going for it to overturn my opinions. It’s just as soulless and lifeless as I expected. The original 1989 feature is considered one of Disney’s best thanks to its colorful production design, fantastic songs, and tight story. Yes, parts of it haven’t aged well but that’s to be expected. This version lacks the color and life of the original, has forgettable new music, and struggles with pacing.

Weirdly, the very experienced director, Rob Marshall, makes some odd cinematic choices with the way this film is shot. For the most part it’s generic and bland, but then there are weird slow-motion shots and strange camera angles. The CGI is also inconsistent, with some shots looking hyper realistic and others resembling early 2000’s video game renders. I have very strong opinions about the costume design, but I’ll spare you what could easily be a dissertation-length rant. Let’s just say it’s bad.

Notwithstanding my frustrations, I’m sure kids will enjoy this movie, even if it is a bit long for that age group. It also has very little in the way of negative content, aside from a few slightly scary scenes. However, I would much rather show my son the 1989 version, even if I do have some issues with the dated story. At least it’s fun to look at and has some of Alan Menken’s best music. This version reeks of cynicism and forgoes rich visuals in the name of realism. The one positive I’ll give it is that Halle Bailey has a great voice, and she really is trying her best with what’s she given. She just wasn’t given anything good.

Directed by Rob Marshall. Starring Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy. Running time: 135 minutes. Theatrical release May 26, 2023. Updated

Watch the trailer for The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid
Rating & Content Info

Why is The Little Mermaid rated PG? The Little Mermaid is rated PG by the MPAA for action/peril and some scary images.

Violence: There are some scenes of mild peril. Electric eels shock some characters, and injure them. A character is stabbed by jagged wood and killed, though no blood is shown.
Sexual Content: A plot point revolves around a kiss.
Profanity: There are some insults such as “stupid” and “idiot”.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Sailors are seen drinking out of tankards while celebrating but it’s never specified what they’re drinking.

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The Little Mermaid Parents' Guide

What attitudes do the merpeople have towards the humans and vice-versa? How are those attitudes challenged? Have you ever had strong opinions about a group of people you don’t know? Where did those opinions come from? What happened when you got to know them individually?

Loved this movie? Try these books…

You can read the original Hans Christian Anderson story of The Little Mermaid for free online at Project Gutenberg. Note that this is a much sadder tale than the Disney version. Parents looking for an illustrated non-digital version can read the book illustrated by Helen Crawford-White and translated by Misha Hoekstra.

Izzy Quinn and Vlad Stankovic create an immersive aquatic world in their brightly illustrated All About Mermaids.

Parents looking for racial diversity in their underwater tales will appreciate Mermaid Kenzie, by Charlotte Watson Sherman and Geneva Bowers. Kenzie the mermaid uses her problem solving skills to clean up the ocean and protect the environment.

A mermaid leaves the sea and makes a human friend in The Mermaid Moon by Briony May Smith.

Tweens who want more of a story will appreciate The Tail of Emily Windsnap. Written by Liz Kessler and illustrated by Sarah Gibb, this mid-grade novel follows the adventures of the titular heroine, who learns that she transforms into a mermaid when she steps into the sea.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

This movie is a remake of one of Disney’s great animated classics – The Little Mermaid, which helped launch Disney’s Renaissance in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Another aquatic personality wants to be human in Ponyo, an anime classic directed by the famed Hayao Miyazaki.

Irish legends of selkies (seals who can transform into people) are told in the ethereally animated Song of the Sea.

Older kids and tweens who want live action mermaid romance can watch Aquamarine, the story of a mermaid who washes ashore only to make human friends – and find a boyfriend.

Teens and adults looking for campy adventure might enjoy The King’s Daughter, an over-the-top tale of an obsessed king, an illegitimate princess, an adventurer, and a captive mermaid.