“The Little Mermaid” Rating: 3.5/5
Disney again attempts a live action remake of a classic tale. Does it warrant the effort? Here, we’re reintroduced to Ariel, a mermaid who is curious about life above the sea. During her exploration, she saves a prince during a sea wreck. To be with him, she gives up her singing voice to Ursula, a conniving sea witch. Ariel’s sea friends must help the two fall in love before Ursula steals it forever. Will she make it in time?
To my surprise, “The Little Mermaid” is one of Disney’s better remakes. It certainly has issues, but the story is still in place.
The most impressive aspect of the film is the chemistry between Halle Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King. I really believed that they were yearning for each other in the complicated dynamic between human and mermaid. Their singing voices also stand out, especially Bailey’s. She certainly captured the essence of Ariel and the importance of her voice in the story.
When the plot shifts to the land centric scenes, it shines. Not only does it highlight the chemistry between the two leads, but it gives us a break from the distractingly odd oceanic animation.
The music was also a standout. I always thought “The Little Mermaid” had some of the best music of any Disney film. The live action translation of these songs brings back the classic feelings while letting the actors put their own spin on them. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason, but I just found myself having a good time. The age-old idea of two people fighting for each other against difficult circumstances accompanied by some colorful sea friends will always carry a certain charm to it.
While the film is refreshing, there are several issues that hold it back from being great. The first aspect people will address is comparability to the first film. The original holds the torch here because the exaggerated nature of the sea creatures and characters translates better in an animated setting. I don’t think certain elements render as well in live action.
Certain musical numbers had trouble aligning the music with the singer’s voice when underwater, so the mouth’s didn’t align with the singing at times. Aside from this, some of the underwater animation was downright ugly to look at. It’s hard to believe Disney had a 250-million-dollar budget for the film. They really need to look at the latest “Avatar” film and compare notes for future films.
Awkwafina was also a miscast as Scuttle. Her voice didn’t adhere to the previous interpretation of the character (nor did her horrendous rap). I can admire a creative risk to change things up, but it didn’t work in this case.
I was surprised that certain musical sequences seemed to drown out the singing with an overabundance of instruments and sound effects. This was disappointing because the singing was a highlight.
The area where the film struggles the most was matching the heart of the original. Although “The Little Mermaid” makes strides over previous remakes, it still lacks the charisma and passion behind the original. At times, it feels like a corporate montage of obligatory checkboxes and quickly assembled animated sequences to get a quick return on investment. The care and craft don’t always feel present which is disappointing.
Although “The Little Mermaid” stumbles along its journey to shore, it manages to warrant an existence by showcasing some wonderful singing performances and charming chemistry between the leads.
The animation leaves a lot to be desired and the corporate Disney footprint is present. But I’ll give credit where credit is due. The film is surprisingly fun and manages to entertain and dazzle in the important areas.
Check out more from Hollywood News Source here!