The Little Mermaid may just be the best live-action remake since Beauty and the Beast, as it tonally merges the Best Picture nominated 1991 classic with the first of the many Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The vibe of the film is fun.
Opening with waves crashing, music soaring, and anticipation bubbling under the surface, The Little Mermaid for the most part doesn’t disappoint. Having recently rewatched the 1989 animated original prior to this screening, I was cynical that any adaptation would struggle in adapting such a tedious story.
Yet, even with its modern updated inclusion of narrative twists, and new characters, I was delighted by just how much enjoyment I took away from The Little Mermaid, especially as I imagined all the countless children who will for the first time fall in love with the magic of this Disney classic.
Despite outcry after the first trailer, Halle Bailey as Ariel is truly inspired casting. A beautiful young woman with a spellbinding voice to match, which, when partnered with the CGI tail fully easily persuades us that she, for the two hour minute runtime, is a mermaid.
Her on-screen aid Sebastian, voiced by Daveed Diggs was equally as charismatic as his earlier crustacean counterpart Samuel E. Wright, who gives a fun and rousing chorus of Under the Sea, returning as one of the many iconic songs direct from the original. It was like watching an old Busby Berkeley spectacular with sea creatures of all shapes, sizes, and colours.
Interestingly, a couple of numbers from the original film were cut, such as Les Poissons – the song whilst Sebastian is about to be cooked, as audiences, instead relying on the more familiar singles like Kiss the Girl, Under the Sea and Part of Your World. The removal of these duds were not missed.
Instead in their place, Lin-Manuel Miranda inserts new numbers, after finding success with Moana and Encanto, slotting in miraculously easily that I was hard pushed to identify whether they were in the original, despite watching it recently as research for this remake!
Not being a huge fan of Disney musicals, I was concerned whether the film would lurch from one musical number to another, but in truth, the songs were nicely spaced apart and captured the particular moment they appeared in.
On the subject of new, Awkwafina as Scuttle gets the biggest original number, The Scuttlebutt, with its rhythm plucked straight from the works of Encanto and Hamilton as it bounces between each verse. However, after starring in Oscar-nominated Room in 2015, Jacob Tremblay, here as Flounder, unfortunately, sounds exactly like every other Disney child actor, as though voicing the character was an afterthought, with Sebastian and Scuttle leading and carrying the supporting roles.
Additionally, the film inserts a deviation where Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) and Ariel drive into a town, taking part in a rousing dance, which despite its continuity error of footwear, is a simple addition and allows us more time to justify their love before Sea Witch Ursula (Mellissa McCarthy) attempts with fabulous boldness to conquer.
There is little doubt that The Little Mermaid will perform well at the box office, especially following in the pawed prints of The Lion King, The Jungle Book, as well as Aladdin, and Mulan, as evidenced with both Snow White and Lilo and Stitch currently in production. With a screentime so compact, it is to be commended how Ariel, Eric, Sebastian and Scuttle sail the film towards its conclusion at top knots.
The Little Mermaid is available to watch exclusively in cinemas from 26 May.
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