Do you want to be a part of Disney’s new “live-action remake” world? Whether you do or not, the trend in Hollywood is remaking old things versus making something new. So how does The Little Mermaid translate to live action? Let’s dive into this a bit but first, incase you were living under a shell, let’s review what this story is about.
The youngest of King Triton’s daughters, Ariel is a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. Longing to find out more about the world beyond the sea, Ariel visits the surface and falls for the dashing Prince Eric. Following her heart, she makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, to experience life on land.
Disney has attempted to again remake one of their many classic animation stories into live-action. This trend isn’t exclusive to Disney and has a pretty poor track record in general. When the first posters were revealed for this film, the internet pre-judged the end result and a vocal minority took issue with the approach in casting. They were all worried for nothing. So let’s break down what worked and what didn’t.
There were adjustments to the original story that were both needed and made sense for a live-action film. The adjustments include some additional visual changes to Tritons daughters of the 7 seas, each visually representing the region of the oceans they were in charge of. The story of Prince Eric was also given a little more context to better fit within the other casting changes. Javier Bardem as King Triton felt under-whelming, though he isn’t the focus of the story his presence wasn’t as strong as I felt it should have been. Halle Bailey as Ariel was outstanding, especially in scenes where she was singing the headline songs. Our lead villain, Ursula (played by Melissa McCarthy) felt like she was trying too hard to recreate Pat Carroll too much during her villainous monologues but in general, she manages to come across as a heartless scorned villain which is what we wanted.
Some lyrical changes were made to the songs, but most of it went unnoticed, and in the hands of Lou Manuel Miranda, there was little to worry about there. There were 2 original songs in this film and both ultimately fell flat and in at least one case felt completely out of place. The “scuttle butt” song sung by Scuttle (voiced by Akwafina) which rapped its way through the scene just didn’t fit. Prince Eric also had a song and I frankly thought he was going to throw himself into the ocean several times, so that may have been less of an issue with the song and more with his emoting during the song. Beyond that Lou Manuel Miranda nails all the big emotional moments song-wise with precision.
The CGI for underwater scenes was bad, barely even believable for a big blockbuster like this. Visually all the land scenes were well done and visually stunning but when you bring in all the ocean scenes including when Ursula gets the trident, it looks like a Syfy Saturday special, in a bad way. It’s fair to say that this is still one of Disney’s best live-action adaptions so far, which is a low bar to beat but for new audiences, families, and young children, this film is a welcome return to the world of Disney Classics with no strings attached.
The Little Mermaid hits theaters May 26th.