By now we all know the story of “The Little Mermaid”. Created by Hans Christian Andersen and animated by Disney in 1989, this beloved classic has finally gotten the live action remake treatment. Over the years, this ‘treatment’ works at times, others not so much so treading lightly here was de rigeour’. With so many interested in seeing where they’d take one of the top five Disney flicks of all time, you also want to keep your mind open to all the options as no one wants to be let down if that doesn’t work out. Luckily that wasn’t the case here as Halle Bailey is perfect as Ariel and when I mean perfect, I mean humanly perfect as it is – because she is human and flawed that makes her perfect in this role beyond just her beautiful singing. And beautiful it is – taking each and every song to its absolute heights with the material being paid massive homage.
The visual effects are stunning – yes there was a lot of CGI, but not to the point where they are bothersome. I mean this is a story of mermaids so you must take your imagination to its heights as is. The vibrant colours of life under the sea were beautiful and you are completely transported away into this world once again that makes you wanted to pack your bags and become a mermaid yourself.
The best part of the film, was of course, Halle Bailey. This is her film. All the people who were skeptical can step aside because Bailey excels at playing Ariel.. She made the role her own while also incorporating bits and pieces from her origin. The facial expressions, mannerisms and yes, her voice. Her voice is as close to perfection as one can get. Her rendition of “Part of Your World” is sure to send chills down anyone’s spine. In addition to Bailey, we have Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, an almost perfect clone of his animated counterpart except this time well, he finally gets a song here and does adequately well.
As someone who always has loved the side characters in this film, the rest of the casting choices fit as well: Javier Bardem as King Triton was powerful at times, though underused and possibly the weakest point of the film. His scene where he gives Ariel her ‘legs’ lacked the enthusiasm of the original in a big way. Jacob Tremblay as Flounder was cute and ever so diligent towards Ariel, though much less of a part here than the original. Awkwafina is laugh out loud hilarious as Scuttle, hitting each mark to its point. Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula is campy fun at times, again one big scene with her coming to – so to speak – just lacked to its counterpart. There is a great cameo by OG Ariel, Jodi Benson.
The stand out by far however, was David Diggs as Sebastian. Every single moment of his was pure gold. He made sure we ALL knew and understood the assignment here by giving it the Caribbean flavour served up on a platter. The timing was perfect on every Sebastian moment. And the rap, I mean come on – it was perfection in abundance. If Halle was the show, Daveed held the spot and was the master of ceremonies. Props must be given to Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda as well. The new songs were tons of fun and the new lyric rewrites are good in their own.
While they tried to bring this story into the 21st century, some of the updates worked, some we already knew and made the run time a tad long. All that being said; The Little Mermaid was much better than I think most ever thought it was going to be. Seeing this story come to life is a major nostalgia trip in the best way possible and do think this is a step in the right direction for Disney going forward and hope it sticks. It is truly just a lovely, gorgeous movie and I wouldn’t be mad if they gave us a ‘Return to the Sea’ sequel with this cast. It is hard to put it above the original animated one, and comparisons are always going to be up to each individual, but it certainly can be put it alongside it.
As far as live-action/hybrid Disney remakes, The Little Mermaid is one of the better ones. True enough to the original animated film without being an exact interpretation. Screaming out loud “We Are In The Caribbean” gave the much needed edge and I was here for all of it. The material not only pays homage to its predecessor, but it is good enough to make you want pack your bags to go be a Mermaid – and isn’t that the point?
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“THE LITTLE MERMAID” FROM DISNEY PICTURES IS OUT IN THEATERS FRIDAY, MAY 25, 2023
Review Screening: Wednesday May 24, 2023 ~ Courtesy of The Walt Disney Corp