About 34 years after the animated classic, Disney’s The Little Mermaid gets a Rob Marshal helmed live-action remake. As per usual, controversies and casting gripes swirled, and we asked ourselves: Do we even need another live-action remake? Fair to say skepticism was high for this one. So how did it actually do where the flipper hits the sea? We took a deep dive under the sea to find out.
Let’s dispense with the suspense. Disney’s remake of The Little Mermaid is good. In fact, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed the hell out of it. There are some flaws, and we’ll get to those, but first and foremost this film exceeded my admittedly low expectations by a mile. Turns out remaking a hit is a decent strategy as I found myself with chills during some of the familiar musical numbers. I had forgotten just how much I loved the original. The credit largely belongs to Halle Bailey, who plays Ariel. She has an otherworldly quality that perfectly suits the mermaid character, and a set of pipes to go along with it. Melissa McCarthy is also perfect as Ursula the Sea Witch and belts out “Poor Unfortunate Souls” with gusto. I was sold. Rounding out the cast is Jonah Hauer-King, who plays Prince Eric. The character gets a lot more to do this time around, and his character is far less two-dimensional. He even gets to sing one of the new songs, a highlight for me.
Speaking of the music, Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda collaborated, nicely mixing classic tunes with new ones. What struck me is that it never felt too music video-ish. Even during “Under The Sea” where temptations must be strong to meet that high moment of the original, they never break from that feeling of fantastical realism that grounds the movie, and each song serves to move the story forward. In some musicals, I am waiting for each song to be over to get back to the acting, while here it was seamless. But here comes my first gripe. The song “Les Poissons” is absent. What a missed opportunity for an awesome cameo from a Jack Black or the like. What do we get instead? An awkwardly squawked rap from Akwafina called “Scuttlebutt”… didn’t quite fit for me.
Another small issue for me was Javier Bardem as Triton… it was cheesy. He didn’t seem to make the same commitment the rest of the cast did and almost seemed uncomfortable in the role. There were some giggles over him in our screening, and not at the right moments, but really it was a small miss from a batch of hits.
I say go ahead and dive in here, the water’s fine.
Jaw Drop: The Ursula battle
Poster Quote: “Another lap with Ariel, Eric, and Ursula. Nothing fishy about this remake!”
Three out of Four Jaws – Matt K.