When you think about it, the initial release of the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid provided two forms of entertainment. First, there were all the mouth-breathers who took a break from yelling at clouds to express their outrage over the decision to cast an African-American as Ariel. That was good for a few chuckles.
Second, of course, is the film itself. And if you’ve never actually seen the original, this one is a wonderful piece of eye and ear candy. Not nearly as aesthetically murky as the trailer first suggested, it’s vibrant and colorful, with outstanding production design and creatively-rendered creatures, especially the antagonist, Ursula, who’s wonderfully played by Melissa McCarthy. As the title character, Halle Bailey is charming, likable and possesses an impressive set of pipes. Speaking of which, with one glaring exception, the songs and score are terrific.
But…that’s a big if. As the movie largely responsible for kicking-off the so-called Disney Renaissance, not only have most of us seen 1989’s The Little Mermaid, so have our children and grandchildren (probably more than once, as many parents will attest). So we gotta ask the same question we had for all the other Disney live-action remakes: Does this movie even need to exist?
|"Dinglehopper? I thought it was a seafood fork."
On the other hand, there are a few interesting changes and additions to the story. Maybe not enough to justify being over 45 minutes longer than the original, but at least Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) has more of a backstory and a similar restless desire for independence as Ariel. He also has an adoptive mother in this one, Queen Selina (Noma Dumezweni), who fears Eric’s reckless need for adventure.
The Little Mermaid doesn’t rank among Disney's best live-action remakes, such as The Jungle Book and (believe it or not) Pete’s Dragon, both of which were adapted from films that weren’t that great to begin with, and different enough to justify their existence. Still, it’s pretty to look at and the performances are good. Like a talented singer covering a classic, The Little Mermaid won’t make anyone forget the original, but as unnecessary remakes go, it’s fairly enjoyable.
FEATURETTES - Recreating Scuttle & Sebastian; Hotter Under the Water (6 brief behind-the-scenes segments with a ‘play all’ option); Song Breakdowns (similar behind-the-scenes segments, only related to the songs); The Scuttlebutt on Sidekicks; Passing the Dinglehopper.
SONG SELECTION - Go right to your favorite songs.