NOTE: The following review will eventually be moved to a special 'Live-Action Disney' page.
Another live-action Disney remake has come along from the Disney Renaissance era of the 90s to cash in on things, and this time it's all about exploring under the sea with 'The Little Mermaid'. I have a tricky time with these remakes at the best of times, but when we're talking about a remake of something from the short time I was laser-focused on Disney animation as a kid, I'm bound to have my problems here and there. But I also get that there's an idea of bringing these stories to a new generation.
'The Little Mermaid' was a particular old favourite of mine, and a lot of that had to do with my love of the character Sebastian the Crab. Heck, I even had an album full of him doing Caribbean song covers, that honestly wouldn't make for a bad summertime fun album using all of the original songs like "Three Little Birds", "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" and "Hot, Hot, Hot". ANYWAY, this was definitely one I went into with low expectations. Like so many of these, I was pretty sure I'd leave thinking the same things I usually do, being a combination of "meh" and "I prefer the original". But having said that, again, I suppose this is aimed a little more towards the new generation.
Just to recap for the three people out there who haven't seen the original, Ariel (Halle Bailey) is a mermaid and the youngest daughter of King Triton (Javier Bardem), the ruler of the mermaid city of Atlantica. She is fascinated with the unseen world above, despite Triton's objections towards the human race for once killing her mother.A little more adventurous than her several sisters, with the help of a fish named Flounder (Jacob Tremblay) and a seabird named Scuttle (Awkwafina), she collects objects and trinkets that have sunken to the ocean floor, such as Dinglehoppers, thingamabobs and other whosits and whatsits galore.
One day, she comes too close to the humans when she discovers a sailing ship with a handsome young prince named Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) on board. A storm shows up, crashing the ship into some rocks, knocking Eric overboard, and Ariel rescues him. A foggy Eric doesn't quite see Ariel's face but takes her soothing siren song to heart, and soon becomes haunted by the mysterious woman who saved his life. But while Eric is just mystified, it's love at first sight for Ariel, and she wants to be part of his world. Triton, of course, doesn't take this well, and the father and daughter have a bit of a falling out.
This leads her to a sea witch named Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) who gives her a deal: She can turn Ariel into a human for three days in exchange for her mermaid abilities - most importantly, her siren song. She must then receive "true love's kiss" in order to become human permanently. If she doesn't, she changes back into a mermaid to be a slave for Ursula. Ariel reluctantly takes the deal and before long meets up with Eric, who seemingly falls for her back. However, Eric is still haunted by the mysterious girl who rescued him, who he doesn't realize is Ariel. It then becomes a race against time for Ariel, aided by Flounder, Scuttle and my dude, Sebastian the Crab (Daveed Diggs)... but will they succeed?
One of the things that I wondered about going into this was the musical numbers, and how they would all play out. I experienced the exact same thing here as I did in 'The Lion King' with "I Just Can't Wait to be King". This rendition of "Under the Sea" sounds good, but the overall sequence isn't as fun as the original. Though not without its charm, I still say the only one of these to do the (what I like to call) "Fun Song" well, was 'Beauty and the Beast' with "Be Our Guest", making it a grand visual spectacle. Maybe it's just me, but I simply didn't get the same kick I did from the original here. There are a few new songs here too, so if you don't like musicals, I dunno if this one's for you. But I did enjoy the "Scuttlebutt" song.
Performance-wise, everyone did well. The stand-out to me, of all people, was Melissa McCarthy's performance as Ursula. This was definitely a role she had a lot of fun doing, and it shows. Ariel, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. I thought she came across as kind of deadpan in this whereas the original Ariel was more whimsical... but I've gotta give it to her, she has a beautiful singing voice, actually sounding very similar to the original Jodi Benson. Altogether, the film is pretty well-balanced, and it does take away some things that don't exactly stand these days (like the whole French chef song), but much like anything else Disney live-action remakes, I'll probably just stick to the original.