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Home > The Little Mermaid (2023): A Review

The Little Mermaid (2023): A Review

The Little Mermaid 2023

A Captivating, Lovable Tidal Wave

To anyone who had their so-called “doubts” about Halle Bailey’s Ariel, please sit down and have Ursula remove some voices; make room for the real fans to give Disney’s latest movie the standing ovation it deserves. The Little Mermaid live-action remake is a heartfelt, action-packed tidal wave that caters to both new and veteran audiences. Is it perfect? No, but it accomplishes something difficult. The movie modernizes—yet stays true to—the 1989 classic while weaving in small elements from Hans Christian Andersen’s original, heartbreaking story. 

Bailey’s Ariel is the only mermaid under the sea who is curious to learn more about the human world. With her strict father, King Triton (Javier Bardem), aggressively prohibiting her from exploring the unknown, the young mermaid simply can’t suppress her curiosity. After saving 21-year-old Prince Eric’s (Jonah Hauer-King) life from a major shipwreck, Ariel is tempted by Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to give human life a shot at the cost of her divine “siren song” voice. 

With a gripping beginning and an ending that truly pulls at viewers’ heartstrings, the 2023 Little Mermaid live-action does not disappoint, even as the cast was forced to tolerate the racist criticism and “woke” accusations that some hurled at them online. 

A Heartfelt Homage 

Right from the start, the audience sees Andersen’s quote from his original 1837 piece: “But a mermaid has no tears; therefore, she suffers so much more.” The Little Mermaid truly incorporates as many subtle tributes as it can to the fairytale author and Disney’s 1989 classic. 

Bailey’s Ariel noticeably doesn’t shed tears throughout most of the movie, which viewers presume is because she is underwater. However, the ending reveals that it’s something more than just water; tears are actually a rarity for a mermaid, according to the legend. They can sing beautifully and swim carefree, but perhaps Ariel is really looking for pure emotion in the “above world” rather than just adventure. What if she wants these complicated layers that we call “personalities?” This is precisely what the 2023 flick makes audiences contemplate. 

Apart from tears, viewers are also reminded of the mermaid’s original reputation, something that Disney fans didn’t see in the 1989 film. Ariel’s powerful “siren song” is a trait that other stories (i.e. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) have captured as the “siren’s” spell-binding influence that she has over sailors. The audience meets Eric on his ship as his crew is trying to spear a mermaid. So, it’s clear that the humans and sea creatures have a terrible history. 

The Little Mermaid, of course, nods to its animated predecessor by including many recognizable songs and lines (“Flounder, don’t be such a guppy”). But one of the most noticeable tributes was the inclusion of the original Ariel, Jodi Benson, who portrays a market vendor that sees Bailey’s Ariel use a fork (a.k.a “Dinglehopper”) as a comb. It’s a sweet and funny moment because we’re looking at the two Ariels standing together. It’s a brilliant acknowledgement of how newer generations can respect the legacy left behind by older ones and vice versa. 

Perfectly Portrayed  

As expected, Bailey is simply incredible. Her “Part of Your World” captures Ariel’s innocence, bravery, and tenacity. As she closes out the final verse, it’s easy for an audience to fall silent while viewers hang on the edges of their seats, waiting for her to carry out the final note. The actress can move an audience to tears, but not just because of her voice; it’s also due to how she embodies Ariel’s wide-eyed, curious, and passionate spirit. 

Simply put, Bailey is Ariel, and yet she does not step on Benson’s original portrayal. The new Disney princess rather brings her own version to the table while respecting Benson’s iconic character. 

As for McCarthy, the Hollywood favorite balances comedy with rage perfectly, creating an equilibrium of both in her performance. It’s hard not to laugh at McCarthy’s subtly hilarious snippets, and it’s even more difficult not to be scared of her Ursula. In short, McCarthy’s portrayal is effortless. She is the new face of Disney’s entire brand, proving that while we can’t cheer on the villains all the time, we can at least appreciate their stories on screen. 

In terms of comedy, Awkwafina’s Scuttle and Daveed Diggs’ Sebastian are the ideal comic relief this film needs. The characters butt heads in almost every scene, and the actors’ voice portrayals truly modernize and improve the original movie’s big-mouthed seagull and disgruntled, loyal crab. In fact, the two are even funnier than the 1989 classic. 

Last but not least, Hauer-King had a difficult task approaching Eric. He was initially known as the prince who does nothing while Ariel keeps saving him. Hauer-King’s Eric, though, carries a more notable chivalry and an even more respectable passion. How could someone not fall for his youthful charm and smile just like Ariel does?  

mermaid mid image

Colorfully and Musically Enhanced 

The first and last shots of the entire film are of the ocean. The battering, rough yet beautiful waves are a captivating sight to absorb. While everyone was expecting the bright colors and upbeat tunes from “Under the Sea,” not many anticipated the tranquil, artistic cinematographic choices that The Little Mermaid features. 

Despite how no one likes Flounder’s CGI look, the action-romance-drama gives us a sight for sore eyes. Viewers don’t step into a colorful world; they swim down into it along with the other creatures. The invitation is gentle but forceful enough to pull us down into its bright underwater universe. 

Since Lin-Manuel Miranda teamed up with Disney veteran composer Alan Menken, fans knew they were in for a thrilling musical experience. While the main hits are a blast to sit through, the two composers incorporated a few new songs into the mix: Eric’s “Wild Uncharted Waters” and Scuttle and Sebastian’s “Scuttlebutt.” Both carry their own individual weight, as Eric’s new tune conveys his agony over missing the mysterious singing girl and Scuttle and Sebastian’s song is a funny gossip angle with fast rap just like in Miranda’s hit production, Hamilton

It was also a smart choice to give Ariel an internal song while she’s temporarily voiceless. Like an internal monologue, the addition of new tunes gives us more insight into how she is feeling when she steps onto the castle grounds. 

A Modernized Hit

Not many parents are in favor of their children thinking that it’s cool to run off and get married at 16 years old. This is likely what director Rob Marshall kept in mind going into the production. So, Ariel’s age isn’t mentioned at all in the film. It’s probably best that fans keep guessing. 

However, age isn’t the single factor that makes this movie a modern-day work of art. There are moments that emphasize what we’ve learned as a society to teach young adults, specifically women. In the 2023 remake, Eric asks Ariel if she wants to take the reins on their carriage ride similarly to how 2019’s Aladdin does the same with Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Though the new human girl puts them in danger, Eric doesn’t hesitate to enjoy the spontaneity with her. 

Aside from the charming prince, a truly empowering moment for Ariel happens with her father. Fans recall that he ultimately lets her go, but Bardem’s Triton makes sure to get one moment with his daughter to tell her she “shouldn’t have had to give up [her] voice to be heard” by him. It’s a strong scene for parents and children to take in together. 

For fans and general viewers alike, 2023’s The Little Mermaid was truly worth the wait. There is a reason why many little kids and older adults will gladly go back to the theater to watch this masterpiece more than once. It’s the fairytale we all recognize but one with vital incorporations that audiences didn’t even know they wanted. 

The Little Mermaid is in theaters now. 

mermaid last image

The Little Mermaid 2023 Walt Disney Studios Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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