THE LITTLE MERMAID – A Review by Cynthia Flores
The original 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid became an iconic part of many people’s childhoods. I know grown women in their 40s that can sing all the words to the song Part of Your World. The original won two Oscars and made the Online Film and Television Association’s Hall of Fame in 2021. So needless to say, it’s a very well-known film.
In the past, Disney has chosen to do live-action remakes of popular classics from their collection. Some have missed the mark, like 2019’s Dumbo, and some have succeeded. Such as 2017’s Beauty and the Beast. Where critics declared it even better than the original. I don’t believe the new Little Mermaid will get such acclaim. It falls somewhere in the middle.
Disney took the story from the original 1837 fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen. They gave Andersen’s story the old Disney scrub-up, and this is the version we all know and love now. The youngest of King Triton’s daughters, Ariel (Halle Bailey), is a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. Her father, King Triton (Javier Bardem), forbids her to go near humans. They are all dangerous, like the ones that killed her mother. But Ariel is a headstrong teenage mermaid. Longing to learn more about the world beyond the sea and about the young Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) that she saved from a storm. Following her heart, she makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), to experience life on land. Ariel visits the surface, falls for the dashing Prince, and works toward her happy ending. That is as much as I can tell you without giving away too many spoilers.
Now my review. I want to start with what I liked about the film. First, Halle Bailey from the singing group Chloe x Halle as Ariel is a great singer. And when she is speaking, she actually sounds like the animated version of Ariel. There were a lot of emotions on the web, both for and against this Disney remake. First, even attempting to remake one of their biggest animated hits took a lot of work. But secondly, to recast the lead from the original animated Irish-looking mermaid with bright red hair and pale skin to the live-action biracial actress with locs that are brown and red-tinged was brave. I also liked Disney’s choice to have different skin tones and hair textures for all of Triton’s daughters to represent the seven seas. Even Triton went from an old Nordic-looking animated character to the ever-stunning and imposing Javier Bardem with his distinctive Spanish accent. Really, Melissa McCarthy was the only person who looked almost exactly like their animated character Ursula. I want to go on record as saying that her Ursula stole the film right out from under everyone else. Her scenes are worth the price of admission.
What I did not like about the film is there is no real chemistry between Ariel and Prince Eric. Making something live-action means you have to bring it all. Real props and genuine emotions. I blame the casting of Jonah Hauer-King as Eric. He just couldn’t match Ariels’ innocence and charm. And her love for him is the only reason that she made a deal with Ursula in the first place. So their love story needed to be convincing. Also, why did they feel the need to take an animated film that was only a glorious 1-hour 23 min long film and stretch it into 2 hours 15 min?
I expected so much more from veteran director Rob Marshall. His strong suit is musicals made into films. I don’t know what cylinder was not firing for him in this movie. But this Little Mermaid was missing whatever spark of “Magic” the original had. My eight-year-old niece was angry with me after we went to the screening because I didn’t like the film as much as she did. Everyone’s a critic.
I gave The Little Mermaid 3.5 stars only because I loved Ursula so much. It will be liked by the little ones that have never seen the animated masterpiece. But, for the rest of us, it did not fill the big shoes of the original.
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: David Magee, John Musker
Selig Rating: 3.5 Stars
Running Time: 2h 15min
Live Action Fantasy/ Adventure/ Family
Wide Theatrical Release: May 26th
Starring: Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem, (voices of) Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay, Awkwafina
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.
4 Stars – Good movie/show
3 Stars – OK movie/show
2 Stars – Well, there was nothing else…
1 Star – Total waste of time.