The Little Mermaid (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)
Updated: May 28
THE LITTLE MERMAID (2023)
Starring Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Noma Dumezweni, Art Malik, Javier Bardem, Melissa McCarthy, Jessica Alexander, Martina Laird, Emily Coates, Christopher Fairbank, John Dagleish, Jude Akuwudike, Russell Balogh, Adrian Christopher, Lorena Andrea, Simone Ashley, Karolina Conchet, Sienna King, Kajsa Mohammar, Nathalie Sorrell, Jodi Benson and the voices of Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina and Jacob Tremblay.
Screenplay by David Magee.
Directed by Rob Marshall.
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 135 minutes. Rated PG.
We are not going to debate whether or not there is any reason for Disney to film live action versions of pretty much every one of their classic animated films other than just as a way to make money.
That is just a given. Disney is raiding their own vaults to make longer, live-action versions of most of their classics. There have been over 20 in the last few decades. In fact, Peter Pan and Wendy came out mere weeks before this film. There are also two more planned for next year (Snow White and a Lion King sequel) and ten more in varying levels of development.
And, honestly, while most of these reboots are not as good as the films that inspired them, many of them have been pretty entertaining.
The good news is that The Little Mermaid is one of the better ones – as usual not as good as the animated version but getting decently close.
The original The Little Mermaid was the film that pretty much jump started the last classic wave of Disney animation, after about a two-decade dry spell of forgettable likes of The Rescuers, The Fox and the Hound, Pete’s Dragon, The Black Cauldron and Oliver & Company.
The Little Mermaid was the first film to include the music of Alan Mencken and Howard Ashman, who also did the music for the next two Disney Classics – Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. (Ashman died of AIDS way too young while working on Aladdin.) Mermaid ended up including three tunes that became Disney standards (“Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.”)
It was also the one which returned the films coming out of the Disney Inking and Painting building to critical success. It also did fairly well as far as box office, but it wasn’t until Beauty and the Beast that the Disney films started becoming smash hits again. Following The Little Mermaid was an entire slate of classics: Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995) and the debut of PIXAR computer animation with Toy Story (1995).
I’m not going to lie, I’m not as familiar with The Little Mermaid as I am with the likes of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. And, perhaps, that is why this film feels so close in quality to the original to me, because I am not as invested in the source as I was for those films. (The live action versions of Beast and Aladdin, while both great fun, were a bit of a disappointment compared to the real deal.)
However, the effects in The Little Mermaid are often stunning, the storyline hews fairly closely to the original (as far as I can remember), the music is wonderful (although “Kiss the Girl” may have been done a little too close to the vest) and the young, mostly unknown cast is impressive – particularly Halle Bailey as mermaid Ariel. Plus, Melissa McCarthy has loads of fun as the over-the-top, tentacled villainess Ursula.
What can I say? I really dug this new version of The Little Mermaid. In a world where IP is king, it's got gadgets and gizmos aplenty. It's got whosits and whatsits galore. You want thingamabobs? It’s got twenty.
Who could ask for more?
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2023 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 26, 2023.