Disney’s The Little Mermaid remake has a couple of winning performances, but ultimately feels unnecessary.
PLOT: Young Ariel (Halle Bailey) yearns to explore the world beyond the sea but is forbidden by her father, King Triton (Javier Bardem). When she meets a handsome prince (Jonah Hauer-King), she hitches a plan to explore dry land but makes a deadly bargain with the evil Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), which could imperil the undersea kingdom.
REVIEW: I’ve never really been down with Disney’s decision to take all their best-animated films and make them into live-action. It’s never made any sense to me. Would you make Toy Story in live-action? It’s even worse that these live-action films are usually at least a half-hour longer than their animated counterparts, and are bloated by extraneous plots and musical numbers, making them a less enjoyable experience than the classics. Has any of them been good? Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book is probably the closest. Still, I must admit to preferring Andy Serkis’ more provocative (and demented) take on the material for Netflix – Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.
Despite two inspired bits of casting, The Little Mermaid is more of the same. It’s about fifty minutes longer than the original and is padded out by Lin Manuel-Miranda’s songs, which are good but not as catchy as Howard Ashman’s originals. Disney Plus almost cancelled a documentary about his life, but then reversed course. This movie treats him with more respect and leaves most of his classic songs intact. This movie is directed by Rob Marshall who also directed Mary poppins Returnsfor Disney. It’s a decent film. Still, it’s unlikely to replace the animated original in anyone’s heart.
However, I will give them this – two main roles have been inspiringly well cast. Halle Bailey’s choice as Ariel was controversial (for some), but it is hard to imagine that even the most reluctant critic would not be won over by her charming performances. She plays her part in the same way as the animated film. Many people thought this version of The Little Mermaid would be too modernized, but Ariel is just how she was in the cartoon, naive, headstrong and lovable.
Melissa McCarthy was the other smart choice, with her having a whale of a time as Ursula. She has the perfect amount of camp in her portrayal and can sing a show song with the best of them. She did a fantastic job with “Poor Unfortunate Soul.” The movie works when McCarthy and Bailey are present. Javier Bardem is probably too grounded to play the role of King Triton, which ends up being a thinly conceived role. McCarthy gave her role a lot of camp and Bardem should do the same. Jonah Hauer King, although handsome (his shirt is ripped by waves on a regular basis), lacks the charisma that would make us believe Ariel will give up her underwater kingdom for him. The same could be said of the cartoon…
Of all the animated critters Ariel refers to as her friends, I found their photo-realistic appearance a little creepy. I loved Daveed Diggs as Sebastian but he seemed too real. I wish they’d made him more cartoony – and the same for Jacob Tremblay’s Flounder. Awkwafina’s Scuttle is the character that is the least faithful to cartoons. However, she has a great voice and can play this role well. There’s a bizarre scene in which Scuttle eats fish in front of the Flounder and it is laughed off. Wouldn’t Flounder have been terrified? Why is he only fish who can talk? I think that the live-action approach is a mistake, especially when the cartoon characters are still used. It was a premium screen that I saw, but those who see it on a standard screen may struggle to understand what is happening underwater. It’s in vogue to make things dark, but does
The Little Mermaid
need to look so murky?Overall, Rob Marshall and Disney’s The Little Mermaid
remake is decent enough, thanks to Bailey and McCarthy, but like Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and other live-action remakes, it feels unnecessary. The animated version holds up fine, but if they had to give it a live-action upgrade, they did a decent enough job.6