So much to love in director Rob Marshall’s live- action adaptation of THE LITTLE MERMAID. Not only does he have a splendid cast, but the entire film is amazing from beginning to end. Considered by many as Hans Christian Andersen’s most popular fairy tale, written in 1937, his story of a mermaid who falls in love with a prince and is willing to give up her sea life to live among humans despite being an outsider, has a powerful message which still resonates today.
Being the parents of a daughter --- an only child --- Disney’s Oscar-winning animated classic from 1989 was often playing in our home. And though this reimagining is quite a bit longer, running two hours and 15 minutes and featuring three new songs, it’s an experience which begs to be seen on the big screen.
Halle Bailey plays Ariel, and she is phenomenal! She’s ethereal --- so incredibly beautiful --- and possesses a singing voice that is out of this world. Disregard the haters out there, Halle is a perfect Ariel --- it’s worth seeing THE LITTLE MERMAID just to watch and listen to her.
Jonah Hauer-King steps in as the hunky Prince Eric and he’s well suited for the role. Not only is he handsome --- and swashbuckling --- he also sports the most adorable dimples. He and Halle definitely have the necessary chemistry to make this sweet love story believable. The carriage scene with the two of them is especially fun, along with the famous rowboat catastrophe.
Helping the pair along in their quest to be together are Sebastian (voiced by Daveed Diggs), the put-upon crab, Scuttle (voiced by Awkwafina), the delightfully amusing seabird and Flounder (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), Ariel’s best fish buddy. These three characters are such an integral part of this narrative, and the CG is astounding. Each of these actors adds a great deal to the success of THE LITTLE MERMAID.
The other major scene stealer is Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, the sea witch --- and sister of Ariel’s father, King Triton (a subtle and yet commanding performance by Javier Bardem --- always a favorite). McCarthy is larger than life portraying the sinister part human, part octopus. She’s also hilarious delivering her clever one-liners with prefect comedic timing --- and singing Ursula’s titular song with aplomb. Rounding out this accomplished cast is the charming Art Malik as Sir Grimsby and the acclaimed British actress Norma Dumezweni as Eric’s adoptive mother, The Queen.
Filming THE LITTLE MERMAID was an incredible feat. To achieve the look of shooting under water, a technique known as dry-for-wet, employing rigs, harnesses and tuning forks, was utilized. The results are astonishing. Production designer John Myhre and his team were tasked with some difficult undertakings, and the sets are fantastic --- and so very colorful. Costume designer Colleen Atwood, who began her working relationship with Marshall on the film CHICAGO, has also done a magnificent job, especially with King Triton’s seven daughters.
But let’s face it, THE LITTLE MERMAID is all about the music. The much-loved songs from the original are all present, along with three new songs by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Halle’s rendition of “Part of Your World” is the show-stopper along with the always wonderful “Under the Sea”, which features an awesome CG production which is highly entertaining.
I will never understand why some people are so against Disney re-creating their greatest animated movies into live action. THE LITTLE MERMAID is a great pleasure --- for all ages! If you don’t have children --- go anyway. You won’t regret it!
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
If you’re a fan of the original Disney animated version of THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989) and have mixed emotions about a live-action remake --- not to worry. This 2023 version, directed by the masterful musical maker Rob Marshall (CHICAGO, INTO THE WOODS) is ambitious, hugely entertaining and destined to be a classic. The satisfying screenplay is written by David Magee (LIFE OF PI, FINDING NEVERLAND) based on the classic 1837 fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen.
THE LITTLE MERMAID is guaranteed to enthrall a whole new generation of movie lovers as well as Baby Boomers on up. It has it all --- an engaging story, a tremendously likeable cast, glorious cinematography, a superb musical score, and a singular performance from Halle Bailey as Ariel, the youngest of King Triton’s (Javier Bardem) seven daughters.
Bailey is already a star based on her singing career. In THE LITTLE MERMAID her magnificent voice is only part of her natural appeal. Her rendition of one of the original songs, “Part of Your World”, brought down the house at our screening at the iconic El Capitan theater in Hollywood. She is a young beauty who can act so we can expect more from her in the future.
Ariel’s male counterpart in the film, Prince Eric, is played by Jonah Hauer-King. If he is not yet a heartthrob based on his earlier work, he will be. His boyish good looks --- dimples included --- and his relaxed acting ability will make him an even bigger star. His determination in THE LITTLE MERMAID to find the girl who saved his life after a shipwreck is a quest that both he and the audience are immersed in for most of the film.
Ariel’s almost constant companions are a crab named Sebastian (voiced by Daveed Diggs), a seabird named Scuttle (voiced by Awkwafina) and a tiny fish named Flounder (voiced by Jacob Tremblay). They are all special buddies for Ariel, providing the movie’s comic relief, but Sebastian, who “reports” to King Triton, is hilarious. And the trio never wears out its welcome.
Bardem transcends his familiar cinematic face in favor of long, gray curly locks and a matching beard. As the father of seven mermaids, he forbids them to have anything to do with the human world above their ocean home. Of course, Ariel has other ideas, and her feisty individuality will prove inspirational to young girls everywhere. Bardem brings empathy and a father’s undeniable love to his performance.
And then there is Ursula. The half human/half octopus --- or sea witch, if you prefer --- is played by Melissa McCarthy with such delight and verve you swear she’s a real entity. When she is called “sea witch” by Ariel, her reaction is priceless.
The visual effects, especially under the sea, are mesmerizing in their color and variety. Watching Ariel glide effortlessly through the water with her huge mermaid’s tail is a constant treat. Marshall enlisted a variety of Oscar nominees, many from his past films, to achieve a miracle of filmmaking. Among these are Oscar winners Dion Beebe, Director of Photography, John Myhre, production designer, Colleen Atwood, costume designer, Tim Burke, visual effects supervisor, and Peter Swords King, hair and makeup.
THE LITTLE MERMAID obviously includes music from the original animated film by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman. Menken collaborated on this 2023 version with Lin-Manuel Miranda for three new songs. The score for the movie is fantastic with perfect flourishes of sound at precisely the right moment. Jennifer L. Dunnington is credited as the supervising music editor.
THE LITTLE MERMAID is not to be missed. See it in a movie theater --- it’s about as perfect a film as one can imagine. After all, it is from Disney, so why should we expect anything less?
Opinion: Strong See It Now!