Going into this – I was firmly of the opinion about this new remake of “The Little Mermaid”existing … WHY ?
The first “Little Mermaid” was – and still remains – a timeless animated classic. Does it really need to be remade – in live-action, no less ?
In fact, for the first 45-minutes of this overly long redux of the memorable tale… the new live-action “Little Mermaid” appears murky, dark and utterly lacking the magic and colorful vibrancy of the original 1989 animated film.
The only bright spot is the casting of the stellar Halle Bailey as Ariel. She is truly the spectacular live action incarnation of the beloved animated fish-girl; sporting flowing auburn colored corn-rows, a luminous smile and the voice of an angel.
However, ”The Little Mermaid” really only begins to get its sea-legs, when Ariel loses hers ( or rather her fins ) and gets human legs thanks to a manipulative spell bestowed by the villainous Sea Witch, Ursula ( Melissa McCarthy ).
Once on land, the wonder and awe Ariel shows while exploring this new dry world finally gives the film the spark, color and magic – that was missing in her undersea home.
The budding romance between Prince Erik and Ariel works – again in large part to the charisma of Bailey on screen. She conveys innocence, sweetness and joyous wonder without speaking a single word.
Also, its Melissa McCarthy’s delightful scenery-chewing turn as Ursula that’s so much fun to watch. Looking like a cross between drag queen Divine and a purple calamari on steroids; McCarthy is a hoot clearly enjoying herself.
There’s three new songs added to the storyline by Lin-Manuel Miranda to pad out the nearly 130-minute run time. Two of them are largely forgettable; though the third tune, titled “Scuttlebutt” sung and rapped by Awkwafina is kinda catchy.
As for the much debated and controversial retooling of the lyrics to the original’s song “Kiss The Girl” – because some concerned folks felt some of the original words – apparently now seem to them to be a bit too rapey
… the lyric change has a negligible effect.
Given the context of the obviously mutually felt romantic moment and attraction depicted in both films, the lyric change comes off as unnecessary and a bit pandering – as well as barely noticeable to have merited inclusion.
All in all, the new “The Little Mermaid” isn’t disastrous and the kids in my audience seemed to enjoy it enough.
I enjoyed truly Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy’s wonderful performances.
Though, Javier Bardem’s turn as Ariel’s father, King Triton ( and his beard ) come across like he’s been watching multiple screenings of “Clash of the Titans” for regal inspiration.
If you can handle the long running time and a slow first act; “The Little Mermaid” isn’t a bad choice to keep your own little urchins entertained by dancing sea urchins this holiday weekend.
Though, not every artistic wheel needs to be reinvented for a new generation with new tastes and sensibilities.
I still prefer the original 1989 animated classic hands down every time.