Intrigued by all things human, Ariel (Halle Bailey) can’t help but push the boundaries in her quest to discover more about the mysterious creatures that live on land. Much to her father King Triton’s (Javier Bardem) displeasure, and the irritation of his trusty advisor, Sebastian (Daveed Diggs), who is tasked with looking out for her, Ariel ventures to the surface to investigate a series of strange lights. Here she encounters a ship and first sets eyes on Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King). When the ship is dashed on rocks and catches fire, Eric is flung, unconscious, into the water. Ariel saves him by dragging him up from the deep and safely returning him to the sandy shores of his land. Despite her father’s fury and protective ultimatums, Ariel is unable to get Eric off her mind. In desperation, she seeks out Ursula the Sea Witch (Melissa McCarthy) and reluctantly agrees to give up her voice for the chance to become human. Ariel is given 3 days to get Eric to give her a true love’s kiss, otherwise she must return to the sea and belong completely to Ursula. Unbeknownst to Ariel, Ursula has made her forget that she is meant to get Eric to kiss her. It falls to her friends, Flounder (Jacob Tremblay) and Skuttle (Awkwafina), as well as the ever-present Sebastian, to try to help Ariel beat the clock, find her voice and break a spell that threatens to destroy her happiness and bind her to the Sea Witch forever.
Teenage boundary testing; prejudice and misunderstanding between species; magic; deceitfulness and cruelty to sea creatures
The Little Mermaid has some violence. For example:
- Sailors stab harpoons and spears at mermaids and dolphins.
- The humans believe that mermaids lure sailors to their deaths.
- Ariel hits a shark with a barrel and traps it in a mirror frame.
- Ursula stabs a cute little crustacean with her fingernail and eats it with relish.
- Eric’s ship is caught in a storm that drives the boat straight towards jagged rocks. The ship quickly catches fire and begins to break apart. Ariel is nearly hit by falling debris and Eric is blasted backwards off the ship and into the water where he sinks, unconscious, into the depths.
- Ariel’s father reminds her that humans killed her mother.
- With lightening blasts from his trident, Ariel’s father destroys her treasure trove of items she has collected.
- Ariel rips a scale from her tail.
- Ariel nearly crashes a horse and buggy into another man and his cart, into a market stall and into a flock of sheep.
- A character questions if sea creatures are only food for slaughter.
- Ursula’s creepy eels knock Eric and Ariel out of their boat.
- Ursula transforms from a human into a sea-creature and knocks everyone to the ground as she grabs Ariel and dives off a clifftop.
- Electric eels shock Ariel while holding her captive.
- The eels grab King Triton and brutally electrocute him. Their repeated and prolonged shocks turn the king to dust, and he disappears into the water.
- Eric throws a spear at Ursula, trying to save Ariel.
- Ursula shoots the trident at Eric but zaps her eels instead. They explode and Eric escapes.
- Ursula tries to crush Eric and Ariel with her tentacles.
- A giant Ursula creates a violent whirlpool with her massive trident, stirring up a storm that lifts sunken ships to the surface once more. Ariel tries to avoid getting hit or crushed by debris, while Eric tries to climb on board a ship as Ursula blasts at him with her trident.
There are no sexual references in The Little Mermaid.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
The Little Mermaid has some substance use. For example, some of the sailors drink what might be rum or grog.
Nudity and sexual activity
The Little Mermaid has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Ariel is naked after her transformation into a human, though she is mostly covered by her hair and only her legs are shown. A sailor, who fishes her from the sea, covers her with a blanket until she is given proper clothes to wear.
- Sebastian and Flounder try to convince Eric to kiss Ariel. They set them up for romance and quietly sing words to encourage him to kiss her.
- Ariel and Eric nearly kiss on a couple of occasions and then finally kiss at the end of the story.
There’s no product placement in The Little Mermaid.
The Little Mermaid has some coarse language and name-calling. For example, ‘stupid’, ‘idiot’, ‘fool’ and ‘brat’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Little Mermaid is a live-action remake of the 1989 Disney classic animation. The movie features new songs, old favourites, excellent vocals from Halle Bailey and a very diverse cast. This is a family movie for everyone except younger children who are likely to be upset by the violence and some of the scary scenes.
These are the main messages from The Little Mermaid:
- Follow your heart.
- Be open to new realities.
- Don’t be blinded by the beliefs or superstitions of others.
- No one should have to give up their voice in order to be heard.
Values in The Little Mermaid that you could reinforce with your children are curiosity, empathy, courage, determination and kindness.
The Little Mermaid could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the real-life consequences of things like:
- giving up who you are in pursuit of love
- disobeying the rules parents have set to protect children
- making deals with those who are deceitful or simply evil
- blindly following what everyone believes and assuming that an entire population is bad, based on the actions of only a few.