Hi everyone! I hope you are doing well. It’s time to get caught up on a few movies I’ve been watching that I haven’t had the time to write up a complete review. In the next few weeks things are going to be very busy for me with new movies coming to theaters and VOD so reviews should be coming. Make sure you are subscribed to my youtube channel and my podacasts (here and here) to get all of my content!
I’m not the biggest horror fan but I do enjoy a good alien story and a well done creature scares movie. It is with these tastes I was hoping I would enjoy the new alien horror film out of Russia called Sputnik. Indeed, the film looks great and the scenes with the creature are chilling and quite gory. Unfortunately when they leave the aliens and focus on the humans it becomes a bit of a slog. This is a film I’d actually be interested in seeing a remake where they can have a bigger budget allowing for longer visual effects sequences. As it is, it’s too uneven to recommend; although I am definitely interested to see what the director Egor Abramenko does next in his career.
Sputnik is available to stream on VOD and in theaters.
4 out of 10
I love me a fascinating person documentary, and I love the Disney Renaissance films so I was primed to love the new film about Disney Legend lyricist Howard Ashman. He was taken far too soon from the AIDS epidemic, but it is amazing to watch the impact he did have in the time he was given (it’s bittersweet to think of all he could have done in the many years following his passing. Tragic). The documentary doesn’t break the celebrity bio-doc mold but it’s a must-watch for any Disney fan. Especially the time spent on The Little Mermaid and behind the scenes on Beauty and the Beast is wonderful to watch.
Howard didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about Howard Ashman but it was still fun to see his talent. I particularly loved seeing him work with Jodi Benson and his performances of Poor Unfortunate Souls had such vibrato and energy. No wonder he got story credit on the The Little Mermaid! He invested his all into the film. It also all has special meaning now as we are going through this pandemic. I wonder what documentaries are going to be made of those lost too soon to COVID19? Howard is available on Disney Plus and I highly recommend it!
7 out of 10
THE WEIGHT OF GOLD
As a huge life-long Olympian fan this documentary The Weight of Gold is tough but important watch. Narrated by star swimmer Michael Phelps it profiles the challenges Olympic athletes face obtaining the proper mental health care they need to deal with the intense pressure of competition. The athletes interviewed include a wide variety of disciplines from both the summer and winter Olympics including Apollo Anton-Ohno, Lolo Jones, Bodie Miller and Shaun White. I have dealt with my own mental health crisis in my life so it’s a subject that means a lot to me.
This stigma against mental health care needs to stop and it doesn’t matter if you are an athlete or have any other type of job we need proper care. Help needs to be easily accessible and encouraged. We’ve lost too many to suicide and despair. Enough is enough! The Weight of Gold is available to stream on HBO Max
9 out of 10
I love live action family comedies and dramas but lately they have been few and far between. Aside from Disney Channel movies Disney has been happy to stick to live action remakes and sequels rather than the small family features they used to be known for. However, with Disney Plus they have been doing more of these films with Togo, Timmy Failure, Noelle and more, which I am very excited about. Now we get their latest film, the long in development Magic Camp starring Adam Devine and Gillian Jacobs.
Magic Camp has a nice message with a simple story of the misfit kids learning to be believe in themselves we’ve seen a lot. Devine is fun and has chemistry with Jacobs, and they both try to make the movie work. Where I fault Magic Camp is, I hate to say it, the kid casting. They are a very bland group of ,kid actors that I struggled to stay engaged with. This is especially true if you compare them to the kids in something like The Sandlot or even The Mighty Ducks. There is no comparison. It makes the movie drag and it’s never funny enough to work as an outright comedy. I’d say skip this one on Disney Plus watch and just watch Timmy Failure again.
4 out of 10
So there you have it! Have you seen any of these films? What did you think and are you going to be going to the movie theaters to see upcoming films like New Mutants or Tenet? Let me know in the comments sections!
I know at the end of this project people will want me to rank all 54 in order from greatest to worst and I don’t know how I am going to do it. It feels impossible. Take The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast . Both are masterpieces. Perfection. Little Mermaid probably means more to me personally, where Beauty and the Beast is probably more of a universal story but they are both sensational. I said it with Winnie the Pooh and immediately a chorus of detractors surfaced, but who cannot like Beauty and the Beast?
Who knows but I love it!
Here’s how I know it is a great movie. The other day I was thinking about it and it occurred to me there are some major plot holes. For instance, we know the Beast has till 21 to break the spell but he has 10 years so he was rude at 11? If time stood still in castle and he is 21 forever (which would seem to be the case given Chip who is probably 7ish?) than how does he know he is 21 yet and if he is 21 wouldn’t that still make him very young when the spell was given? Or has he been 21, 10 times?
Also when you think about Be Our Guest, all the flatware and napkins and everything else, if each of those things is a person that is a lot of servants at the castle? Thousands! Finally, is the whole kingdom under the spell? Is that why there are so many items? Because wouldn’t people notice their prince is gone? Also how long are Belle and the Beast together because Lefoux and Maurice are outside the whole time but their courtship seems like many months?
So plot holes, yes? But here’s the thing…None of that matters AT ALL! Even a little bit! The characters are so rich, the writing is so sharp, animation stunning and the music- oh is it perfect. To me it is like Up in that regard. Yes you can nitpick plot points but all the pieces are so strong it carries the viewer away with it if they will allow it to.
Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture and it sure deserved it.
It’s hard writing this blog because I have tons of information on this and it is all very interesting stuff. The audio commentary has so many great tidbits from Allan Menken, Gary Trousdale, and Kirk Wise.
Like Little Mermaid, this film was treated like a traditional Broadway musical and much of that emphasis came from lyricist Howard Ashman who I have grown to have such immense respect for when doing my research for this project. He tragically died from AIDS before Beauty and the Beast could be released but this was not simply a song writer. This was a man who acted out the characters and had definite opinions about casting, dialogue and everything else. They said on the Gaston number Ashman had sheets and sheets of lines of funny prose that had to be trimmed out. He could have gone on for days.
He was so crucial to Beauty and the Beast that they moved production to an upstate New York Radisson Inn so they could be near him as he was sick. What a creative gift to give the world as you are on your death bed. Quite touching really.
I think we forget how bold the traditional musical structure was in 1991. Even with The Little Mermaid precedent, to do a Broadway musical was basically unheard of. We are more used to it now because we get a musical release every year or so but that would not have happened if Menken and Ashman and Disney had not kept the medium alive in the 90s.
They said in the audio commentary that the New York Film Festival gave a standing ovation to a rough draft version of Beauty and the Beast and part of that is because it is so great but another is because it hits every nostalgic musical button without being corny.
The casting went a long way with the film’s success. Jodi Benson, from Little Mermaid was considered for Belle, but they decided to go with an older, more mature sounding voice of Paige O’hara. The Little Mermaid needed a girl who is uncomfortable in her own skin. Beauty and the Beast needed a woman. Belle has already figured out what she wants and it is not just a thing like legs or a man. She wants adventure and a spiritual belonging.
What takes Ariel probably 40 minutes to realize when she sings on the rock, Belle has announced in the first 15 minutes. Both are important characters but just at different phases and ages. I love that.
All the other casting is brilliant with Richard White as Gaston, Robby Benson as Beast, Jerry Orbach as Lumiere, and Angela Lansbury as Mrs Potts. I went to a concert of Angela Lansbury and she felt great ownership over playing Mrs Potts. She said after 9/11 she would talk with kids and her voice was a comfort to them because of Mrs Potts. You can feel that kind of connection in all the performances. Mrs Potts is a great example of how perfect the characters are developed. With her we have a character with no arms or legs and yet she is warm and maternal. Pretty remarkable.
What amazed me this time around is how every character in Beauty and the Beast is established in the first 30 seconds of them talking. The Beast is the only one we don’t understand and have to see change. Usually this wouldn’t work but when the writing is this sharp it does. It is kind of like the Justice League of animation. Individually they may be a boring character but together they work great.
Allan Menken’s score contributes so much too. The way scenes build to crescendos and the way storytelling is done within songs is amazing. this is not a action, stop and sing, and more action type of musical. The music tells the story and introduces us to the characters flawlessly.
Think of The Mob Song. We start out with Gaston proposing to Belle and by the end they are practically at the castle and that all happens convincingly with the lyrics, vocals and music. (And each reaction totally makes sense when given the behavior of the Beast at the beginning and what little we know about each of the townspeople and Gaston).
It also took the CAPS work of Rescuers Down Under and combined it with special effects in a new way. Remember in my Rescuers review I said the computer graphic sequences like the Sydney Opera House didn’t really hold up for modern audiences? These do. The ballroom scene is just as beautiful now and sweeping as it was then. There isn’t a moment of the film that feels antiquated or tired to me.
There is personal value to Beauty and the Beast for me as well. I responded to the story of course but I have always loved Broadway since I was in High School. When I was in college my dear cousin Lisa and I conceived of a plan to take a trip out to New York with our Grandma. While we were there we saw Beauty and the Beast and were blown away. We also saw Music Man and the Rockettes (it was a Christmas trip). 4 months later Lisa passed away of a long-term illness, so I can’t help but watch it and think of her.
I’m sorry if that seems sentimental but it’s true. For me movie-going is not just images on the screen but stories and stories matter in my life.
Normally in my reviews I go over the story talking about what I like in one character or another, what songs I like, how the story moves and flows. I literally have found that to be impossible for Beauty and the Beast. I’ve tried 4 times and each time ended up with so much material nobody would ever read it. My last attempt at keeping it simple had 10 pages and I had only gotten to Something There. I know some people enjoy my writing but 20 pages on Beauty and the Beast might be a little much.
So, basically it’s a story about a girl who feels out of place named Belle
The town jock Gaston is in love with her because she’s pretty but she wants more
Her father gets lost and finds an enchanted castle where he is imprisoned by a beast
She agrees to go in the place of her father so that he can be free
The house is full of enchanted objects created by the spell changing not only the beast but all in the household
They do their best to make Belle happy
Gaston is depressed about Belle’s rejection and his pubmates try to cheer him up
Belle’s father tries to get help, everyone thinks he is nuts and that gives Gaston an idea to manipulate Belle into marrying him
Meanwhile in some amount of time Belle starts to see a softer side to the Beast and he indulges her love of reading
Beast and Belle have a night dancing where he is ready to tell her he is in love with her
But she learns her father is in trouble and despite the enchanted rose wilting Beast allows her to go
When home Gaston tries to have Belle’s father committed unless she will marry him, she refuses
Gaston and the townsfolk learn about the Beast and storm to the castle to kill him
The household objects defend themselves but Gaston finds his way to the Beast
At first the Beast doesn’t care because Belle is gone and let’s Gaston win at the fight
Then he see’s Belle and Gaston and Beast fight, with the Beast letting him go. Then in return Gaston literally backstabs the Beast and then falls to his death
Beast dies in Belle’s arms but just before the pedal drops Belle tells him she loves him. This love is enough to reverse the curse and bring Beast back
All the household objects are returned to their pre-curse state and Belle and Beast are happy forever.
Phew! I’m exhausted. I must have written that 5 times and I’m not entirely happy with a clip show summary (I have so much I could tell you!) it was the best way I could come up with to simply let the story talk about itself.
Like I said at the beginning Little Mermaid has more personal meaning to me but Beauty and the Beast is a close 2nd. It had great impact and is one of only 3 movies I remember seeing as a little girl and loving. So, if I could give a co-champion of my youth it would be Beauty and the Beast.
Every aspect is perfect. Villain? Perfect. Heroine? Perfect. Animation? Perfect and still looks great in 2014. Backgrounds? Stunning works of art. Side Characters? Perfect. Humor? Perfect. Musical score? One of best ever written. Songs? Perfection. It really has the feel of someone’s master work and that is probably because it was. Thinking of Howard Ashman working on the lyrics when he was on his deathbed had to give special meaning to the whole project for all who worked on it. I have a feeling that is what made it so special.
I have seen the stage musical probably 15 times and it is a delight. Whenever they do it at local theaters by me it is sold out quickly. They had so much interest a few years ago they had like 6 performances on Saturday.
It has lessons of redemption, forgiveness, vanity, pride, ambition, dreaming, and fun but it doesn’t beat you over the head with any of them. It has us so attached to every character including the Beast that when they transition to humans it feels like a bit of a letdown. We are so used to them as candlesticks and clocks.
I honestly had forgotten how great this movie was until it was released in 3D (and I could do without the added scene for the 3D release) last year and I saw it on IMAX and sat in my chair for about 10 minutes after and marveled.
I would say it is not only one of Disney’s best but it is one of the great movies ever made.
Overall Grade- A+
No wonder it was the first animated movie to be nominated for Beast Picture and won for best score and song for Beauty and the Beast.
Hey, and it also introduced us all to Celine Dion so there’s that 😉
Oh and the other great thing is for most viewers we want to be Belle because she’s smart, kind and beautiful, but we also want to be the beast because we hope someone will love us even with all our flaws. To have that kind of relatability with one character is hard for a writer, but to do it with two is really hard. Perfection!
Here we go. How to talk about a favorite film? It’s tough. I’ll have you all know I watched it 3 times for this review . Once to enjoy, once with commentary and once to take notes. There are a lot of ways I could go with the review and even now as I am writing I’m not sure what way the words will take me but that wouldn’t be the first time in my blogging career and it won’t be the last.
Aside from being a massive hit, The Little Mermaid was important for Walt Disney for a number of reasons:
1. It marked the beginning of a yearly animation offering from Disney which to 2015 has only missed a few years. Previously a film would take 4-7, even 10 years to finish
2. It was the return of the ‘girl movie’. After Sleeping Beauty failed Disney was convinced movies for girls weren’t successful, which is why we went from 1959 to 1989 without a solo female leading character, and most of the time it was just a male lead and the female would be thrown in for the last minute as a love interest only (you all know how I hate that!). At one point Jeffrey Katzenberg was so concerned about it being a ‘girl movie’ he warned the directors Ron Clements and John Musker to not spend very much money because it was unlikely to do well at the box office. (Amazing in retrospect right?)
3. It marked the return of the broadway style Disney musical which hadn’t been seen since Cinderella. You certainly had pictures with songs, many by the Sherman Brothers but there weren’t any ballads or traditional scores like a musical.
4. Computer animation was used in a new way. Scenes like the ship scene at the beginning and the climatic battle were done using CGI, which had just been invented by Pixar. It is the last movie to use hand painted cells. But even so bubbles and other special effects were revolutionized to create the lush look of the picture.
5. It would inspire Disney to keep on progressing in their animation quality and storytelling ability. The next decade is what is known as the Disney Renaissance where we see such classics as Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King and others. Really Disney would face no competition until Dreamworks had it’s first megahit with Shrek in 2001. Pretty impressive.
So that’s some of the 411 behind The Little Mermaid. Even if you are one of those poor unfortunate souls who doesn’t like this movie you can’t deny it was very important.
As we discussed in the Oliver and Company review, Disney executives had gathered animators for a brainstorming session and green-lit the ‘oliver twist dog movie’ and the ‘little mermaid’. As I said, executives were skeptical could appeal to boys limiting your audience. However, they had decided to embrace the musical and Splash had recently been a big hit in live action for the studio.
Walt Disney had actually thought about doing Little Mermaid as a package film of Hans Christen Andersen shorts. They had even commissioned some storyboards which 1989 directors Ron Clements and John Musker found and the changes they had made to the original story were largely the same as the 30s version (cool right?). In both cases the story had been softened from the book to have a happy ending.
Once they had decided on a Broadway style musical they had worked with Howard Ashman previously on Oliver and Company and he had worked with Alan Menken on Little Shop of Horrors. If you ever get a chance listen to the audio commentary on the diamond edition dvd because I was amazed at how much influence particularly Ashman had over the film. He is even credited as writing ‘additional dialogue’. I figured he was just the lyricist but evidently he would preform each of the songs in costume and insist the animators and their body doubles (Little Mermaid used human forms for the first time in many years too) mimic his acting.
Little Mermaid is also a movie that is ‘underscored’ meaning the music was written to dictate the animation, not the other way around. This also hadn’t been done in many years at Disney.
For the first time in many pictures there weren’t any celebrity voices except for Buddy Hackett who played Scuttle. Jodi Benson who voiced and sang for Ariel was a broadway performer who had worked with Ashman before. Her and Samuel Wright who plays Sebastian did not audition before the main team but sent in tapes from New York and they were so impressed they go the jobs. Kenneth Mars who plays Triton had been a working actor but not well-known and Pat Carroll was a replacement for Ursula. They originally wanted Bea Arthur from the Golden Girls.
I’ve mentioned on the blog how much I admire Walt Disney Studios risk taking. Despite initial nervousness Little Mermaid was the most expensive animated movie ever made and with the flop of the previous expensive film, the Black Cauldron, you have to admire them for taking a risk again.
The animation is so detailed. After decades of xerox films to have a million bubbles surrounding the characters under water, and the iridescent look of the light on the rocks is amazing.
Even just the movement in Ariel’s hair is incredible. There isn’t a moment under sea where it is static. It always moves and flows. No small task even today.
If you listen to the audio commentaries it becomes clear Little Mermaid was a labor of love especially for Clements, Musker, Ashman and Menken, and I for one am grateful because it meant a lot to me growing up.
The Little Mermaid was also the first movie to be released on VHS only 6 months after it’s release. At the time Disney was very nervous about doing this because it would prevent profitable re-releases which they had done of their other classics; however, it was a huge hit selling 7 million in the first month!
It also started a track record of Disney winning Oscars again (first nomination since 1977 Rescuers) with wins for best score and song (Under the Sea). They would win again in 91, 92, 94, 95, and 99. Not bad!
Ok. Enough of the delicious backstory. Let’s talk about the actual story. This is probably less interesting for some of you as most everyone knows the story of the Little Mermaid (I mean even if you don’t care for it could you get through the 90s and not see Little Mermaid?)
Let’s talk about the story by going over the songs.
We start out with Prince Eric’s boat and a sea shanty which introduces us to the myth of Triton and his ‘fathoms below’. Immediately we are immersed in the feel of the water and the melodies we will be hearing throughout the film.
Then the melody takes us to Triton’s castle and the concert. We learn Ariel is headstrong and doesn’t come to practices. We meet Sebastian and Triton and get a brief glimpse at Ariel’s sisters.
This scene is not only humorous but it tells us a lot of Triton’s relationship with Ariel. She is clearly the favorite of his girls and she isn’t there. This doesn’t just disappoint Triton but it angers him. That is a lot to learn about characters in what is essentially a comedic scene.
Then we get to see Ariel. She is searching for human treasure and is willing to face a shark for it. She goes up to the shore to find out what the items are from Skuttle. Again this is a humorous scene but it also tells us a lot about her . She is brave (perhaps carelessly so), rebellious, inquisitive and naive. These are all huge traits that makes her vulnerable later on to the manipulations of Ursula.
Triton is upset with her of course so he assigns Sebastian to take care of her. He a musician is insulted to watch over a ‘teenager’. Evidently Menken and Ashman decided on a Jamaican voice because reggae was very popular and they felt it would give a swaying feeling of the sea to Under the Sea and Kiss the Girl sung by Sebastian and I think they were right. Plus, it makes Sebastian an interesting character. Most characters with that accent are relaxed and chill but he’s high strung. It’s funny.
Sebastian follows Ariel to her secret grotto where she sings of her desire to be human, to be part of that world. Originally this song didn’t test well in focus groups but Ashman, Menken, Clements and Musker told execs neither did Over the Rainbow, so the song stayed. In the audiocommentary one of them says having Sebastian there during the song adds a level of tension and even suspense which helps tone down the cloyingness that might otherwise be there if she was unheard. I had never thought about it before but it makes sense.
I’ve heard some people object to Ariel because she is selfish and whiny. She can be selfish but where do you draw the line between knowing who you are and what you want out of life, and being selfish? She certainly does selfish things but it is from a good place. She doesn’t feel at home in her own skin literally. How many of us have felt the same? I certainly have and that’s why I related to the movie so much. I remember looking through my Mothers wallet and wishing I could be taken seriously by someone. I hated being a kid and being told what to do all the time. I wanted to try things my way and maybe that is selfish but it is also what produces great human beings.
To me her yearnings come from a deeper place than just whining and complaining and I think it is why girls related so well to Elsa in Frozen too. It’s the same kind of yearning to be who you are supposed to be but the world won’t allow it.
Getting off track…
She hears some fireworks, leaves Sebastian, and heads up to see what the noise is about. This is her first time looking at Prince Eric and she is immediately taken with him.
Eric is one of the most present Disney Princes. Evidently for some reason men are hard for the animators to draw and that is why they were avoided in films like Cinderella. (It’s strange but I’ve read that more than once). I know technically it is only a few days but for a Disney movie we get a lot of time spent between Eric and Ariel.
He actually has a fair amount of dialogue for Disney Prince. We know he is waiting for the right girl despite his adviser Grimsby’s yearnings for him to settle down. They establish quickly Ariel and Eric are a match in spirit not just appearance (which is something the instant love trope usually misses. I have no problem with instant attraction but that should just be the beginning and with Ariel and Eric it is).
An unexpected storm comes and Ariel jumps to Eric’s rescue saving him from drowning. We get a reprise of Part of Your World which is stirring and had every earnest little girl singing along!
Again, I related to this song because I felt like Ariel- a kid who wanted to break out of the kid body and be taken seriously by the world.
Her session with Eric makes her twitterpated and she flirts around the castle to the notice of her father and sisters. This stresses out Sebastian as he knows the King will be enraged if he finds out Ariel’s secret love.
So Sebastian tries to convince Ariel that she should stop wishing to be on the ground. He then sings to her the Oscar winning song Under the Sea. The animation in this song is amazing. Every fish plays a different musical instrument and they all combine together for one sound. How they recorded it I will never know but everything from tubas to steel drums make for a great song.
On the audio commentary they mentioned how the backdrops in under the sea are many colors. I guess Katzenberg was concerned they weren’t all blue but it totally works. In fact, the more creatures involved the more colors the sea is until we have seen purple, gold, green, pink and of course blue. And seriously watch the bubbles in Under the Sea. It is amazing!
Of course she doesn’t listen and leaves with Flounder before the song is even over but Triton requests Sebastians presence because he wants to know who Ariel is in love with. By a slip of the tongue Sebastian tells him Ariel is in love with a human. Of course, he is angry and worried.
Fearing for his daughter and completely incapable of communicating with her Triton destroys Ariel’s grotto and leaves her devastated.
Again think of this from her perspective- everything she knows in her heart she is to be has been destroyed and told is wrong. To me it makes perfect sense she would be vulnerable at such a moment to Ursula, the sea witch who sends her thugs Flotsam and Jetsam out to tempt her.
The eels are basically like the snake in the Eden story and Ursula is the devil. Ariel is willing to sell her soul, her voice, to the devil for a chance to be who she is supposed to be, and love who she is supposed to love. That is compelling stuff in my book!
From the moment we meet Ursula she is one of the great Disney villains. She is bitter, out for revenge, overweight octopus who covers the sea with her blackness. Pat Carroll as the voice gets the perfect balance of a truck driver with a drag queen and even the way she puts on lipstick is suspect. She is like a used car saleswoman but in Ariel’s case it is her soul and revenge on Triton Ursula must convince her to give up. Poor Unfortunate Souls is my favorite villain song ever (and only the second solo by a villain ever). Much copied but never duplicated, it has the perfect combo of gravitas, manipulation and salesmanship.
Once she is turned into a human Flounder, Sebastian and Skuttle must help her find some clothes (in a very well choreographed scene by Disney considering their heroine is without clothing! The score in this section is also brilliant highlighting every moment.
I’ve heard some people say Little Mermaid teaches a bad lesson because Ariel gets what she wants in the end despite making very poor choices. She does make mistakes and she realizes it when her father is taken down by them, but when she gets her legs Sebastian looks at Ariel and he says ‘or you could be miserable for the rest of your life’. Her father was never going to give her what she knew she needed and Ursula at least provided a chance.
Eric meets Ariel and thinks she is the one but since she can’t speak he discounts the resemblance to his rescuer. Nevertheless, she is invited to the castle and given a warm bed and place to stay. An unlikely contrivance I suppose but it works!
She is invited to dinner with Prince and Grimsby but first we get a little comic relief when Sebastian accidentally stumbles into Chef Louis kitchen, a kitchen hard at work cooking “les poissons’ or little fish. My brother took a french immersive class and a teacher used the word ‘les poissons’ and immediately a chorus of girls started singing the cooks song. It is hilarious slapstick and doesn’t have much to do with the story but I love it! It gives a break from some of the schmaltzy romance and very funny vocal performance by Rene Auberjonois.
At dinner Eric invites Ariel to get a tour of the village so the next day is spent driving around, dancing and getting to know Eric despite Ariel’s lack of a voice. Knowing their time is brief Sebastian tries to encourage the romance with the wonderful song Kiss the Girl. I thought this song was hilarious as a kid. We’ve got to create the mood after all… (The vocal by Wright is actually quite lovely)
Ursula realizes things aren’t going her way so she uses Ariel’s voice and becomes human to trick Eric into marrying her. She actually has hypnotized him with yellow eyes.
Ariel, Sebastian, Flounder and Skuttle all gather together to help stop the wedding and it is a funny yet tense scene.
The battle between Triton and Ursula isn’t a wizard’s duel for sport. It is a battle of good vs evil, of bitterness and revenge with the fate of the sea at stake. The tension builds so well and it feels pretty desperate and that Ariel has lost her love and her father all at the same time. What can be done if even Triton is under Ursula’s control?
Then Eric comes through and we get our amazingly drawn final battle.
Another person I read said Ariel doesn’t learn anything by the end. I disagree. She does learn that chasing your dreams requires sacrifices and that love and family are precious. She learns she is where she is supposed to be. That is huge. But her father also learns. He learns HE WAS WRONG That’s why he changes her in the end. He was thwarting his daughters destiny and he made it right. So, lessons are learned and it is not a lesson that whining gets your way. At least that’s not what I have ever taken from it. It’s that we need to fight for what we are supposed to be in life and that is more important than anything else for both Eric and Ariel.
We get our happy ending!
It probably goes without saying this movie gets the highest grade from me. It has everything you want in a Disney movie. The animation is stunning in it’s detail, artistry and light. The songs run the gambit from heartfelt to hilarious. The characters are complex and relatable, even the Prince. The story teaches important lessons to girls (and boys I suppose) about finding out who you are and where you belong in life and fighting for it. It has the classic father/daughter dynamic that goes back to King Lear (and further I’m sure).
The villain is unlike any we had seen before with a villain song that has yet to be topped. The score clips along and speaks for a character who for a majority of the film cannot. The songs are all instant classics. Every choice worked and it was magic to me as an 8 year old in 1989 and it totally holds up. I saw it 3 times this weekend and could have watched it 3 more times.
Just like Frozen is doing for modern girls, Little Mermaid inspired many from my generation to be yourself and to sing your heart out. Just like girls are singing Let it go, we were singing Part of Your World. My sister and I would have competitions at night both of us claiming that we sounded the most like Ariel. (It was me all the way).
I get that it strays from the classic story, but I think if Hans Christian Andersen saw the treatment of his work he’d be thrilled (and with Frozen too!). It certainly keeps the spirit of the story without punishing Ariel for dreaming big.
I have nothing bad to say about it. I love it and can’t wait till the day I can gather my daughters (if I ever marry) and watch The Little Mermaid together and hear about all their desires, frustrations and dreams, and to sing with them!
Overall Grade A+
PS The sequels that are usually terrible by Disney aren’t half bad for Little Mermaid. There is actually a prequel and a sequel.