‘Little Mermaid’ Floats Above the Top of Disney’s Live-Action Adaptations

‘Little Mermaid’ Floats Above the Top of Disney’s Live-Action Adaptations (Don Arnold/WireImage via Getty Images)

Walt Disney Studios splashes away any doubts about their live action duds with “The Little Mermaid” — a reimagining of the classic animated film from 1989 which is loosely based on the timeless fairy tale from Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. 

The story features the beautiful, curious and free-spirited young mermaid named Ariel, who lived her whole life under the sea and seeks to explore the world on land above her. Ariel is the youngest daughter of the ruler of the seas, King Triton and means well as she loves her father, however her inquisitive nature puts her in conflict with her dad. In pursuit of individuality and freedom, Ariel unwittingly makes a deal with Ursula, a sea witch banished and exiled from the kingdom by Triton in order, to experience the life she wanted and pursue her newly found love after she rescues a human man known as Prince Eric from a shipwreck. 

The protagonist Ariel is portrayed by African American singer-actress Halle Bailey, known for her work in music with her sister Chloe Bailey, performing as the Grammy Award nominated duo, Chloe x Halle. This is the sixth film adaptation featuring a Disney Princess, starting from 2015’s “Cinderella.” The film is directed by Rob Marshall, whose filmography consists of primarily adapting hit Broadway musicals to the screen such as “Chicago”, which  Marshall was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director. Marshall balanced the grandiose music with the stunning visuals to make the most visually vibrant Disney live action film compared to its peers like “The Lion King,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” 

The work put in by the VFX team and Marshall’s direction made the sea life immersive and creative and the shots on land filmed on the coast of Sardinia, Italy were gorgeous and evoked the feelings of a time from the past yet fantastical enough to be a fairy tale with Caribbean influences. 

Returning to work on the film was Disney hitmaker Alan Menken, the composer and one of original song writers from the film who worked with the late Howard Ashman, whom the film is dedicated to. In charge of creating new songs with Menken was Lin Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” fame, who also co-produced the film. Miranda previously contributed to the soundtrack of animated Disney films, ‘’Moana’’ and ‘’Encanto.’’  

Bailey provides a heartwarming performance that makes you want to root for Ariel. Her vocals were angelic and very Broadway like as how powerful yet soft they were. She was whimsical and alluring while also keeping it grounded as she is a literal fish out of water.

While Melissa McCarthy would not have been my first choice for Ursula, she shocked me with how good she was in the role as she played the devilish and wicked witch perfectly including her vocals for “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Javier Bardem was commanding and sincere in the few scenes he was in as King Triton. Daveed Diggs did a great but not perfect job as Sebastian the crab, Aquafina was adequate as the caring yet dimwitted Scuttle. Jacob Tremblay as Flounder was adorable regardless of the strange design choices they made for him. Finally Jonah Hauer-King was extremely charming and had great chemistry with Halle Bailey which helped as they were friends off the set. 

While some fans of the Disney animated films aren’t impressed and feel overwhelmed by the ever evolving roster of live-action adaptations, I consider “The Little Mermaid” to be an exception. This doesn’t feel like another generic cash grab on nostalgia, but a labor of love to only enhance a beloved story many of us became familiar with in childhood. The story follows the same plot structure for the most part, but allows many scenes to become extended, with the new scenes becoming a nice alteration of previous ones from the original that adds more character detail, growth, or bonding between one another while expanding on the themes and adding depth to the characters. 

5 dinglehoppers out of 5

Zipporah “Zipp” Pruitt, (she/her) is an L.A. homegrown journalist, who covers entertainment and culture. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @zippzapps

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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