Reel Reviews | The Little Mermaid

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

Disney does it again as it makes another live-action adaptation of an animated classic. This time, with great controversy, comes The Little Mermaid.

Ariel (Halle Bailey) is in love with the world outside the sea. Even though humans are responsible for the death of her mother, this little mermaid believes that not all humans are the same. Nonetheless, King Triton (Javier Bardem), Ariel’s father, has forbidden all interaction with humans and their world. But the independent young mermaid thinks she knows better after seeing Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) and his crew celebrate his birthday. Desperately in love and desperate to prove her father wrong, Ariel makes a deal with Ursula, the Sea Witch (Melissa McCarthy) that could cost her and the whole sea kingdom everything.

The screenplay for The Little Mermaid was written by David Magee and is a live-action adaptation of the animated film of the same name from Disney Animation Studios which was loosely based upon the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. The film stars Halle Bailey, Javier Bardeim, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Awkwafina, Daveed Diggs, and Jacob Tremblay. The film is directed by Rob Marshall.

Back in 1989, The Little Mermaid was a wonderful achievement in animation that received critical acclaim. In its debut weekend, it earned over $84 million, the third-highest box office gross behind Harlem Nights and Look Who’s Talking. It was released a second time to the theaters in 1997 and again it came in third place earning $97 million more and solidified itself as one of the most beloved movies of Disney Animation Studios at the time. Since its release, only Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King have garnered more adoration. Both of those movies have received the live-action remake and now it is time for Ariel to get hers.

The funny thing about these live-action remakes is that there is none of the critical acclaims for the films like there was for the originals. Even fans of the original are usually underwhelmed by the remakes. This film is no different. There is about an hour more of the movie over the original and three new songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda included in the film but none of them really improves upon the original. However, they are great inclusions to update the film.

Which is the real point. This Little Mermaid, and none of the other live-action remakes, are made for the fans of the original movie. Neither is the new House Party, White Men Can’t Jump or the upcoming The Color Purple. The purpose of the film is to maintain the trademark and indoctrinate a new generation of viewers.

That being said, there are a few technical problems with the movie. The first is that the cinematography is inconsistent. There are times when the movie looks really good but a few of the underwater scenes with Ariel are less than flattering. The second problem is in the musical arrangement. Alan Menken returns to do the music but there is something that is completely different in the arrangement of Sebastian’s songs. There was a certain charm to having all the fishes in the sea sing with him in the animated version. Their absence is felt in the remake.

Rated PG for action/peril and some scary images, The Little Mermaid is nowhere near the groundbreaking film of the original, and true fans of the original will be disappointed. Disney remains consistent in making these remakes that underwhelm. This film is not for you. Take your children and their friends and let them be entertained. Then bring them home and show them the original.

Grade: C+