Gather round folks! Let’s talk about my tumultuous relationship with current Disney and their latest live action remake- The Little Mermaid…
Anyone who has read my reviews knows how important The Little Mermaid was for me as an emerging movie and music lover. It came out when I was 8 and was the first of either movie or music I connected with. I remember singing the songs late into the night and having competitions with my sister about who sounded the most like Ariel. I connected with Ariel’s need to belong somewhere and how her father didn’t understand her (even though my parents were awesome doesn’t everyone feel that way when they are young?)
Even to this day I still love the movie and consider it one of the highpoints of Walt Disney Animation Studios.
As you also know I have not been a big fan of most of these Disney live action remakes. For the most part, they have felt meaningless and frustrating but what has really irritated me is the way Disney diminishes the original films in order to puff up their new films. Too often they use these remakes as an opportunity to ‘correct’ or ‘upgrade’ minor nitpicks with the animated films or invent problems that nobody had to begin with.
What’s especially frustrating is when we are told they are presenting these stories as they were “meant to be seen” or they are finally “coming to life.” It’s insulting to the hard working animators and while yes the originals still exist they have successfully created a world where live action is seen by many as an upgrade over 2D animation and that 2D animation is for children only- it makes me so mad.
The marketing campaign on this new The Little Mermaid seemed targeted to tick me off and it did. Disney focusing on how the original lyrics and plot-points needed to be improved and modernized felt like they were feeding into this idea of Ariel and her story being anti-feminist or backward, which is garbage. Plus, all the clips and imagery they showed were terrible. I honestly don’t know what they were thinking showing night scenes out of context so you could barely see what is happening and little of Halle Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King who are the strength of the film. The designs of Flounder and Sebastian are also awful and should not have been promoted so heavily. For a company the size of Disney they sure could use some help in the marketing of their films (I’m available…)
In retrospect, I should have had more faith in the film because of its director Rob Marshall who had previously directed one of my favorite recent Disney films Mary Poppins Returns. While that film is better than this as an original story with original songs, this The Little Mermaid does work as a romantic drama with 2 wonderful performances at the helm.
It’s funny because most of the problems I feared are still there in this film. The underwater sequences don’t look great, they stripped almost all of the humor from the original, and the less said about “The Skuttlebutt” the better. I also didn’t love Melissa McCarthy as Ursula. Again, they took away all her humor, which is a strange choice when you have a comedic actress like her in the role. Also the ending action looks atrocious and the staging of “Under the Sea” is a bit baffling.
In the end, I loved Bailey so much as Ariel and her singing voice is so beautiful it allowed me to forgive much of the movies flaws. She really is that good. I also thought she and Hauer-King had amazing chemistry, and I appreciated the arc they gave Eric. He’s also not too shabby of a singer and actor(his song is relatively bland but I still enjoyed it.)
Basically in spite of themselves Disney made an entertaining film with The Little Mermaid. I give all the credit to Bailey, Hauer-King and Marshall. I hope people go out and see it, enjoy it and then go home and watch the original and pay tribute to the incredible animators and the great Howard Ashman who made it possible.
7 out of 10
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