The Little Mermaid
review by Bobby Blakey
Over the last few years Disney has been bringing their iconic animated features to fans in new live action adaptations including Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Aladdin and more. Now they are heading under the sea to bring the popular Little Mermaid to live action aquatic life with a great cast including Halle Bailey as Ariel; Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric; Daveed Diggs as the voice of Sebastian; Awkwafina as the voice of Scuttle; Jacob Tremblay as the voice of Flounder; Noma Dumezweni as Queen Selina; Art Malik as Sir Grimsby; with Oscar® winner Javier Bardem as King Triton; and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula from Mary Poppins Returns director Rob Marshall.
The Little Mermaid follows Ariel, a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. The youngest of King Triton’s daughters and the most defiant, Ariel longs to find out more about the world beyond the sea and, while visiting the surface, falls for the dashing Prince Eric. While mermaids are forbidden to interact with humans, Ariel must follow her heart. She makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, which gives her a chance to experience life on land but ultimately places her life – and her father’s crown – in jeopardy.
I’ve never been a big Disney fan, especially of the princess era mostly due to the art all being the same and stories felt on repeat. The Little Mermaid was one I had a bit more connection with just because my daughter was a huge fan and the first film she saw in theaters. I have actually enjoyed a lot of these live action versions so was intrigued to see if they were able to capture the essence of the original. As much as people complain about new versions this is yet another property that has had so many versions throughout the years it is old hat.
I know there was much unnecessary controversy on the casting of Halle Bailey, whom I have been a fan of since first seeing her on Grown-ish. My only concern with any casting of the role is can the person pull off the songs and she does just that and then some. She is excellent in the role all around. Her performances of the iconic songs is outstanding. She brings her own style to them while still keeping the overall nature of them intact. The same is said for McCarthy’s portrayal as Ursula. She is all in, bring the sinister yet snarky evil character to bold life. Both of them are so great here and the highlights of the film.
Visually the film is stunning from beginning to end bringing the world under the sea to vibrant life. I was surprised how well the animals worked as talking characters with the exception of Flounder who just never stops being weird. They have captured the fun and energy of the animated feature, but still brought just enough extra to the mix to make it feel bigger. This is both a good and bad thing for me.
One issue is the run time is just a bit too long dragging some in the middle as I feels like it is trying to force more story into complete with some new songs. There is one from Prince Eric’s perspective that just fell flat for me. I understand they were trying to expand to see some of his feelings in the situation, but it just never connects. There are others that work, but the addition of these new entries sees the deleting of my favorite song “Les Poissons” which just annoyed me from that moment forward. I am aware the song doesn’t move anything forward in the story, but ditching it for some of the other choices was just dumb. There is also an element that I don’t want to spoil in relation to how Ariel is hearing things after losing her voice that I hated all around. It felt like a forced element and loses some of the impact of what she is dealing with as she tries to find herself in this new world.
In the end the film actually worked more than it didn’t and despite the angry morons the representation here works and makes it all the better. It does nothing to diminish the original product and instead enhances what came before it with yet another vision of this property that has been around for so long. (Way before the Disney original film)
In addition to the film this release offers up bonus content including featurettes, documentaries, song breakdowns, a sing a long version and more. Head down under the sea and grab your copy of The Little Mermaid available now on digital and on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD on September 19th from Disney Home Entertainment.