Ariel (Bailey), a mermaid, is captivated by humans and seafloor artifacts. After encountering her first people, she sells her voice to sea witch Ursula (McCarthy) for legs to spend time with Prince Eric (Hauer-King).
The Little Mermaid (2023)
The human world and the artifacts that the mermaid Ariel (voiced by Bailey) discovers on the ocean bottom captivate her interest. After having her first encounter with a human, she decides to trade her voice in for legs from the sea witch Ursula, played by McCarthy, so that she may be with the human Prince Eric, played by Hauer-King.
The Little Mermaid, first released in 1989, is the latest animation classic to be remade in live-action by Disney. It’s lengthier than the original, the colors are duller, and it doesn’t do a great job of explaining why it was made in the first place. But give credit where credit is due: the new songs are pleasingly catchy, and the cast is excellent.
Our protagonist Ariel is the disobedient daughter of ocean tyrant King Triton (Javier Bardem), and pop diva Halle Bailey. The world above the surface has always captivated her. But when she saves Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), the shipwrecked heir to an island kingdom that faintly resembles the Caribbean, her curiosity becomes more focused.
Ariel makes a deal with her colorful sea witch aunt Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to trade her voice for legs in order to be with him. Then, it’s a race against time to get your true love to kiss you and seal the deal on the transformation.
The main storyline remains the same as in the animated version, although with a few changes that have a somewhat feminist undertone. Ariel puts herself into action and frequently appears to lead the way for Eric, who is calmer and more introspective than she is. Ariel’s sisters are converted from laughing ninnies into monarchs of their own right throughout the seven seas. But the most noticeable difference is that everything is now somewhat lengthier.
The majority of these live-action remakes waste time and effort on irrelevant details. The fact that reality (or photo-real VFX) does not have the clean lines and emotive simplicity of traditional Disney animation is one of the clearest ways to see that this is the case.
However, it is also true in terms of the storyline, since many new threads here make references to specifics that don’t actually go anywhere. In modern times, it is not enough for Ariel to lose her voice; she must also give up her “siren song,” which may or may not have magical abilities and was the reason why Eric was able to survive the shipwreck. Because of these changes, the total running duration of the film is now over two hours, and at times it may seem even more bloated than whale fat.
Bailey is a wonderful choice for this role. She sings well despite her lack of vocal training!
Fortunately, Bailey is a wonderful choice for this role. She has a powerful voice that is well suited for the songs, and she avoids the pop-star cliché of singing 10 notes when one would suffice. Bailey is able to convey the same feeling with only a look, so the director Rob Marshall and returning composer Alan Menken provide her with some voiceover songs to cover the situations in which Ariel is silent. However, these songs are more filler than anything else.
Menken collaborated with superfan Lin-Manuel Miranda to add to, and sometimes change, Howard Ashman’s original lyrics. Despite this, the new songs are not terrible, and Menken is responsible for this. There is only one flourish that is reminiscent of Hamilton, and it is a charming speed rap performed by Daveed Diggs as Sebastian and Awkwafina as Scuttle.
It is produced with clear respect for the original, and with huge efforts in visual effects to bring the underwater sequences to life – not always smoothly, but near. Bailey is able to keep everything under control, but one can’t help but get the impression that the increased length of the runtime has diluted the impact.
Another “live-action” adaptation that is gloomier and less captivating than the animated version of the narrative, but it is rescued by the delightful portrayal of Bailey, the sassy delivery of McCarthy, and the story’s own enduring appeal.
On May 26th, “The Little Mermaid” will make its debut in cinemas throughout the United States. It has a PG rating.