Arlo is ready for bigger and better things.
Part human, part alligator, Arlo floated down the ocean from New York City in a basket as a baby and ended up in the Louisiana bayou. But he’s always felt out of place in the swamps, even though his adoptive mom, Edmée, has given him all the love a lil’ gator could ever ask for.
But when Edmée shows him his bracelet from Bellevue hospital and tells him that he has a father he’s never met, everything finally clicks into place for young Arlo. Of course he’s not from the South. He’s somehow known it his entire life. Now, he’s ready to venture away from everything he’s ever known to make his way to The Big Apple to meet his estranged father. But he’ll soon see that the outside world is very different, and that the only way to survive it is with a group of close friends, a whole lot of positivity … and plenty of singing.
Arlo is a kind, compassionate human-like alligator who sees the best in people. He is also fiercely loyal and brave. Initially, Arlo wonders if something is wrong with him, as he expresses such optimism and joy. But he is affirmed that there is nothing wrong with him. In fact, he has the kind of hope that most people need.
Arlo encourages his friends and helps them to feel loved just as they are. He also teaches his friend, Bertie, to express her emotions through song.
Edmée took Arlo in as a baby alligator and raised him as her own. As Arlo embarks on his journey to New York City, Edmée tells him to let the joy in his soul be his guide.
An original song tells us, “We all belong together; we make each other better.” It also emphasizes the power of community, and it reminds us that we each need someone to “hold us up” in life.
Bertie tells Arlo that his being in New York is a good time to find his “truth.” A character briefly mentions the phrase “healing evolution” in conversation. At one point, Arlo wonders if he’s died and gone to heaven.
Furlecia is an effeminate pink furball who wears heels and is super interested when he finds a gay hairstylist in New York City to style his fur (Furlecia is also referred to as “she” in the film). A drag queen walks down the aisle at New York City’s Met Gala.
Men and women dance on a yacht in their bathing suits. A fish walks around in a speedo. Two teens flirt with one another and a couple makes out. Bertie wears a dress revealing some cleavage. A man rips off his pants, revealing his underwear. A fish tells two friends to “get a room” as they have an emotionally intimate moment.
A scary villain tells Arlo she’s going to “shave” him “like a baboon’s bottom.” She also tries to Taze him and to catch him with a net. This same villain ties a man up and tries to force him to confess information and, when he doesn’t, he’s drug away to his death, into the dark, by a large beast.
People make bets to see if Furlecia, a pink furball, will win a fight against a burly man. Furlecia is stabbed in the fur with a pitchfork in a fighting rink. A boy punches a fake alligator in the face. Alia is a crazy driver and nearly hits passersby. A thief tries to steal something and when he tries to escape a bucket of green goo falls on him.
We hear mild interjections such as “heck,” “What in the Sam Hill?” “sure as shootin’,” “sucker,” “dang” and a cut off “What in the—.”
A group of men and women drink champagne on a boat. A fish drinks a martini, and a man drinks a glass of hard liquor. Empty beer bottles lie scattered on the ground in one scene.
Flashbacks show a young boy being teased for his physical differences. A few songs are quite sad as they talk about washing away hurt and feeling misunderstood.
Edmée tells Arlo that she has a warrant out for her arrest and doesn’t want to go back to prison. Bertie calls Arlo a naïve and confused little boy. A frog burps and passes gas.
A character named Teeny Tiny Tony yells at people often.
Arlo the Alligator Boy is a new Netflix musical aimed at kids.
This TV-PG movie tells the story of a little alligator-boy with a big personality who brings happiness and acceptance wherever he goes. Viewers learn lessons about the importance self-love and acceptance, and they see the value in community as Arlo makes a family from a misfit group of friends.
That’s all good stuff in isolation. But … that’s not the end of the story. Parents should know that this film about acceptance also embraces thinly veiled visual and verbal nods that reference LGBTQ stereotypes.
Lest you think I’m reading too much into it here, several progressive-leaning and/or pro-gay websites have embraced Arlo with enthusiasm and made similar observations. James St. James of worldofwonder.net asks if the film might be an “instant LGBTQ classic.” Meanwhile, Kristy Puchko at pajiba.com characterizes the film as “a rousing and family-friendly queer fable.” She also writes, “This is a story boldly about characters who are coded LGBTQA+ in their tropes and actions.”
Arlo the Alligator Boy delivers some great messages about loving and accepting those who are different, those who feel like misfits. But the LGBTQ “coding” that Puchko mentions is undeniably mixed into that message as well.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).