Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ Live-Action Review

The Little Mermaid live action poster.

After hearing all of the hype surrounding Disney’s new live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, directed by Rob Marshall, I was excited but still skeptical going into the film. And it did not disappoint me. All too often, unfortunately, Disney live-action remakes fall flat to their animated predecessors, with a few exceptions, such as Cinderella and Aladdin. Luckily, even with the films that aren’t great, they offer something new to add to the classic stories we love. While not perfect, this is a solid remake where the good outshined the parts that were lacking, and the additional content we got within it was great, making the film feel fresh.

Halle Bailey is truly amazing as Ariel. Her voice is sensational (I got goosebumps during “Part of Your World”), and she brings new fantastic energy to Ariel. She also feels more mature in this film than in the original version and a little more grounded. She is still the same human-loving mermaid we know and love, yet with more depth. The additional content we get for Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) helps the audience get to know him, bringing in material missing from his characterization in the original film.

Eric shows Ariel his collections in Disney's The Little Mermaid.

Thus, Ariel and Eric’s relationship is more believable with new scenes of them getting to know each other. Even with Ariel’s silence, Bailey shows what’s under the surface with her mannerisms and expressions. Seeing Eric’s collection that mirror’s her own grotto fills her with excitement and hope. She hangs onto every word he has to say as he shares his collection with her. In turn, she shares herself with him, too, showing him that there is more to the oceanic treasures than he knew. There’s an excellent balance between them even when Ariel is at a disadvantage, making it evident that they are kindred spirits, both forced into a life they didn’t choose and yearning for more than the worlds they have grown up in, hungry for that knowledge and new experiences.

The new songs, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alan Menken, fit in well, especially “Wild Uncharted Waters,” which gives us a great look into Eric’s mind and adds another layer to him (I will be shocked if it isn’t on my top ten at the end of the year). “For the First Time” is another excellent addition for the audience to hear Ariel’s internal voice during a pivotal moment in her story and after Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) steals her actual voice. Speaking of Ursula, I wasn’t sure what to expect from McCarthy’s version of the iconic villain, but I’m pleasantly surprised by her performance.

Ariel pets a puppy in The Little Mermaid.

Not everything is perfect. There has been a lot of discourse around the character designs for Sebastian (Daveed Diggs), Flounder (Jacob Tremblay), and Scuttle (Awkwafina). The cast all do a great job, and I enjoyed their songs, but I can understand why fans would want designs a little closer to the original film. King Triton (Javier Bardem) and Ariel’s relationship could be better. Still, even in the original, Triton’s main purpose is to push Ariel to finally go after her dream after learning how to become a more supportive father.

Overall, The Little Mermaid is a success, with the cast giving great performances and staying true to the original film but adding new material in a way that doesn’t drag the story down. The romance has more layers and moments of connection which is easily the best part of this film. I cannot wait to see what Halle Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King do next.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid is in theaters now. Let us know what you think about the film!


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