‘The Little Mermaid’ Stays Afloat
Stellar performances elevate a less-than-inspired adaptation
When it comes to Disney’s live-action remakes, there are two camps. One camp is all “Look at this stuff! Isn’t it neat?” and the other camp is like “Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?”
In other words, some people don’t want the live-action remakes because they love the classics. I can understand this, especially as many of the “live-action” films still require a hefty amount of animation or CGI. For instance, Halle Bailey did not learn how to breathe underwater for the reboot of The Little Mermaid.
However, a remake with a fresh perspective and a chance for greater diversity is an opportunity to create a new classic that’s more inclusive. For those familiar with the animated film, the plot and music remains largely the same. Halle Bailey is an ideal Disney princess, and she has an incredible voice.
She’s dealt with what must have been immense pressure (and a lot of racism) from the moment the casting choice was announced, and delivers a standout performance as Ariel. She captures Ariel’s innocence and longing perfectly.
THE LITTLE MERMAID ★★★(3/5 stars)
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: David Magee
Starring: Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem, Daveed Diggs
Running time: 135 min
Like the original, Ursula takes her voice for a significant chunk of the film, but Bailey still charms Prince Eric and the audience with her sweet nature and excellent silent emoting. Eric is falling for her, even as she chaotically drives his carriage and combs her hair with a fork.
Melissa McCarthy has a great time hamming it up as Ursula, and the scene where she grows to an enormous size and stirs the ocean with her massive trident is legitimately terrifying. A key difference from the animated film is that perilous moments like shipwrecks, fistfights, and attacks from giant sea witches are twice as scary than the cartoon version.
There are new lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and some new songs too. Others may disagree, but I didn’t find the new songs that memorable. Daveed Diggs as Sebastian is a pure delight, and the animators deserve a lot of credit for the scuttling crab’s humorous exploits.
Interestingly, this movie is almost an hour longer than the original, but I don’t think it needs to be. I have a pretty strong dislike of films over two hours in general. But I don’t think any new storylines made the movie so enjoyable it needed to stretch out quite so long. An extended scene of Triton and Ursula exploring their sibling rivalry would have been an ideal addition in a longer movie. Javier Bardem was great, as expected, but his talents were wasted, as Triton isn’t used much.
Overall, Disney fans will enjoy this portrayal of their beloved characters, and Halle Bailey will hopefully have a long and successful career.