Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” remake is extraordinary. Its beauty is weaved around its greatest strength—the essence of humanity—bringing forth a sense of maturity while elevating what made the original animation unique.
The execution is delivered through stunning cinematography and a career-defining performance from Halle Bailey, making it an experience worthy of the once-dormant Disney Magic.
The difference between this film and past live-action remakes is how Director Rob Marshall always displays his care and attention for the legacy of Ariel in every frame on land or under the sea, from the balance of colors and creative editing. However, that’s only a tiny sample of how this script is the main reason this remake works, even though, at times, many moments were noticeably plucked from the original with a different approach. In terms of pacing and exposition, elements are brought to focus through new renditions of classic songs, along with a few new ones that help give a unique flavor and perspective on some aspects necessary to make this film stand apart from its predecessor.
Of course, the cast’s strength and chemistry gives these icons a new layer many will notice and appreciate. For example, Halle Bailey provides everything in a career-defining performance, and her rendition of “Part Of Your World” will leave you in tears. Bailey will be a beacon of inspiration for young girls, and it’s beautiful because it’s a prime revelation of seeing yourself and knowing your voice can be heard.
I think Bailey embodies the character of Ariel just perfectly, not only nailing her mannerisms or the angelic vocals; for me, it was her ability to show her motivations, thoughts, and experiences, present in the moments under the sea, on land without her voice, during the tender confessions of finding love with Eric, that sold me on the fact that no else is more suited for the role, and legacy of this iconic Disney Princess. As the film continues, audiences will notice how Ariel feels being human for the first time and experiencing all these new things that we didn’t get in the original, which works. It’s a creative way to let the narrative flow instead of being bogged down by pointless exposition.
Regarding Eric (Jonah Hauer King), his arc and updated portrayal from the original animation was a pleasant surprise. We are shown his admiration and a pivotal connection to how his and Ariel’s perspective arcs bring each other together. The choice to have Prince Eric drawn to the sea seeking freedom as a parallel to Ariel being drawn to the surface world was a perfect idea, linking the audience to prepare for the inevitable moment that both will meet, expressing the beauty of love through the value of identity, and choice, all highlighted by the organic chemistry from Bailey and King that never came off forced. Instead, Marshall has created one of Disney’s most organic and realistic romantic films.
Melissa Mccarthy was sensational, in addition to the main leads. She looked fantastic as Ursula, but what rendered me speechless was her attention to detail and how, at times, her mannerisms felt symmetrical to the classic animation. Still, at times Mccarthy’s voice would sound quite similar to the legacy of animation counterpart actress Pat Carroll. Nonetheless, every time Mccarthy entered the frame, she took command of the screen and didn’t let go.
Another cast highlight was Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, who had in tears from the amount of heart and laughter this film possesses. In terms of character, Diggs let his vocal talents shine in a few ensembles, and his comedic chemistry with Scuttle(Awkwafina) was a significant highlight. The realistic designs worked at times, and in other moments they were a little wonky, if honest. Jacob Tremblay shined as Flounder, but I wanted to see more from the character; his role was diminished from how the film carried on.
Javier Bardem did a great job as King Triton; he comes off as stern but caring, and it works with the film being woven around the morals of family values, oversight, and self-identity, giving a fresh layer that the animation achieved once before. It was great to see Ariel’s sisters represent the seven seas with corresponding cultures from those areas, which shed some light on the execution and placement of this film.
In terms of set design, I was impressed by the recreation of iconic sets such as Ursula’s hideout, King Triton’s throne room, Ariel’s grove, and Eric’s castle. However, the most impressive feat was the on-location shooting showcasing this film’s beauty and real maturity, whereas the underwater segments shine just as well, with the euphoria of fantasy. The visual transitions are magnificent, from the colors popping to accenting a scene or letting the mood work as a character or conduit to the audience by never allowing a dull or muted moment to manifest,
The music was the perfect blend of classic and modern Disney. It was primarily due to Alan Merken’s return to scoring that the film gives off a feeling of nostalgia and connection to the original, then adds in the brilliant vocals and performance from everyone in the cast due to the simple touch of Lin-Manuel Miranda providing his guidance as a producer and assisting with the music. Many will notice some of the lyrics have been updated and retooled to express the direction of each melody. I noticed the subtle key changes or the rhythms being elevated to weave a tone of the setting and establish geographical placement. In the end, this film’s experience is truly surreal and will leave audiences in tears of joy and achievement.
Disney’s The Little Mermaid is a radiant color show from the creative genius and magic of Director Rob Marshall, who has perfectly crafted an experience that will enter the hearts of families and general audiences.