The Little Mermaid review (2023)
In the depths of the seven seas, King Triton, portrayed by the talented Javier Bardem, reigns alongside his daughters. However, one of them, Ariel, possesses a burning curiosity for the world above the water’s surface. Ariel’s fascination with human artifacts and trinkets often leads her into trouble, and her latest adventure alters her life forever.
Ariel’s encounter with Prince Eric, portrayed by Jonah Hauer-King, occurs when she courageously saves him from a stormy shipwreck. This act of heroism ignites a forbidden love within Ariel, much to her father’s dismay. King Triton has strictly enforced the rule that the human world remains off-limits to the merpeople. In a fit of fury, Triton destroys Ariel’s cherished collection of human objects, leaving her distraught and desperate for a way to pursue her desires.
In her despair, Ariel makes a dangerous pact with the malevolent Ursula, brought to life by the formidable Melissa McCarthy. Ursula promises Ariel the chance to walk on land as a human, but in return, Ariel must surrender her enchanting voice. To complicate matters, Ursula places a dire clause on their agreement: Ariel must receive true love’s kiss within three days, or she will be trapped under Ursula’s control forever.
Halle Bailey‘s exceptional singing talent shines through from the moment she takes the stage, and her casting as Ariel proves to be a perfect fit. Her rendition of the timeless classic, “Part of Your World,” captures the essence of Ariel’s longing and wonder. Bailey skillfully brings Ariel’s fish-out-of-water naivety and unwavering determination to life. Her chemistry with Jonah Hauer-King’s Prince Eric is captivating, thanks in part to the decision to provide Eric with a more extensive backstory. This added depth to their unlikely romance, while commendable, occasionally leads to pacing issues, particularly in the film’s initial acts.
One aspect that presents challenges is the implementation of uneven CGI, at times detracting from the immersive underwater experience. Recent films have set a high standard in this regard, and unfortunately, “The Little Mermaid” falls short in comparison. Nevertheless, the film manages to stay afloat with the help of supporting characters such as the cantankerous crab Sebastian, voiced by Daveed Diggs, and the enthusiastic seagull Scuttle, voiced by Awkwafina. Their humorous contributions inject much-needed levity into the plot. The talents of Javier Bardem and Melissa McCarthy shine through as they embody the roles of King Triton and Ursula, respectively. However, the jarring photorealistic design of the beloved Flounder, voiced by Jacob Tremblay, is a noticeable distraction.
While Disney’s recent string of live-action remakes has garnered mixed reviews, “The Little Mermaid” proves to be a worthy retelling for the current generation. It may not capture the exact magical essence of the original, but all hope is not lost in Rob Marshall’s interpretation. The film owes much of its success to Halle Bailey’s star-making performance, which adds a fresh and captivating energy to the beloved character of Ariel.
In addition to Halle Bailey’s captivating performance, “The Little Mermaid” benefits from a modernized approach that adds depth to the story and characters. The filmmakers delve deeper into the emotional journey of Ariel, exploring her yearning for self-discovery and independence. Through her interactions with Prince Eric, the film explores themes of identity, sacrifice, and the complexities of love.
The screenplay takes the opportunity to expand on the supporting characters as well. Sebastian, the grumpy yet lovable crab, voiced by Daveed Diggs, offers not only comic relief but also serves as a wise mentor to Ariel. His witty one-liners and memorable musical numbers inject energy and charm into the film. Similarly, Awkwafina brings a delightful enthusiasm to the character of Scuttle, the comical seagull, providing comedic moments that balance out the more dramatic elements of the story.
Javier Bardem’s portrayal of King Triton adds a regal presence and gravitas to the film. He embodies the conflicting emotions of a protective father torn between his duty and his daughter’s happiness. Bardem’s powerful performance showcases Triton’s struggle to reconcile his love for Ariel with his staunch adherence to the rules of the underwater kingdom.
Melissa McCarthy’s interpretation of the iconic villain Ursula is a standout. McCarthy brings her comedic prowess to the role, infusing Ursula with a mix of charm, deviousness, and a touch of vulnerability. She commands the screen with a magnetic presence, making every scene she’s in captivating and memorable.
While the film does take liberties with some of the classic songs, offering extended versions and introducing new musical numbers, the overall soundtrack remains enchanting. The familiar melodies and emotionally charged lyrics resonate with both new and old fans, creating a sense of nostalgia while embracing a fresh interpretation.
One aspect that may disappoint some viewers is the occasional distraction caused by the CGI effects. In an era where visual effects have reached astonishing heights, the underwater sequences in “The Little Mermaid” fall short of expectations. The CGI creatures and environments sometimes lack the realism and fluidity needed to fully immerse the audience in the underwater world. However, the strength of the storytelling and the performances helps to compensate for this shortcoming.
In the end, “The Little Mermaid” succeeds in bringing a beloved Disney classic to life for a new generation. While it may not capture the exact magic of the original animated film, it offers a reimagined and engaging experience that stands on its own merits. Halle Bailey’s exceptional talent, coupled with a talented cast and a more nuanced exploration of the characters, make this live-action adaptation a worthwhile and enjoyable cinematic journey.
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