The Little Mermaid: The BRWC Review. By Jake Peffer.
Over the last decade or so, Disney has been set on remaking most of their animated classics into live action movies. Outside of a few of them, most not only are nowhere near the quality of the original movies but also do nothing to capture that magic that audiences have enjoyed for many years. For me, the only live action remake that has surpassed the quality of the original is Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book from 2016. Despite mixed reactions to most of these remakes they continue to perform well at the box office so Disney continues making them. Now we have their live action version of The Little Mermaid, arguably one of their best animated movies. With a great cast and a competent director behind the camera this has all the right pieces to be one of the better live action remakes.
If you’re not familiar with the story of The Little Mermaid it follows Ariel (Halle Bailey), a young mermaid who longs to discover the world above sea. She collects numerous things that fall under the ocean from up above and constantly begs her father, King Triton (Javier Bardem), to allow her to explore the land. King Triton is against anything involving humans, as her wife was killed by humans. Against her father’s will, Ariel makes a deal with a sea witch, Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), where she will trade her voice for human legs so she can discover the world above and impress a young prince (Jonah Hauer-King) that she once helped rescue.
This remake of The Little Mermaid is one of the few remakes that is able to recapture most of the magic that was in the original. Director Rob Marshall does a good job getting the best out of his cast and allowing them to stay true to the characters while still making them their own. Normally, I’m not a big fan of remakes that just do the exact same thing as the original. Shot for shot remakes mostly don’t work as they end up just having numerous callbacks to the original and usually lesser performances than what worked the first time around. Here it works, mostly because of how good the cast ends up being. Sure, I would say the original still works better and tells this story in a more enjoyable manner, but this remake does a good enough job to stand on its own.
There are some aspects here that do not work, and they do bring the movie down a bit. The special effects are extremely hit or miss. Everything underwater looks a little on the rough side. All the scenery, fish and plant life look great. It’s all very colorful and for the most part looks as it should. Everything involving human actors is where things start looking like something out of a video game. When the story goes above sea level it looks great and all the effects in those scenes really do stand out. Unfortunately, more than half the movie takes place underwater, and the characters just don’t look right. While the cast here is great there is one person that doesn’t seem to be bringing it like the rest and that is Javier Bardem. His performance isn’t bad but every time he’s on screen it feels like he would rather be somewhere else and that’s a shame because I think he’s a good choice for King Triton. With this being live action now, things must be fleshed out a little more which means the run time here is quite longer than the original. Adding in some extra things to flesh out characters or the story is fine but adding almost an entire hour to the run time from the original is just too much.
Like I mentioned before, outside of Bardem the rest of the cast here is great. Halle Bailey was a great choice to play Ariel and she does a fantastic job in her performance. She is able to capture the feeling of Ariel from the original while making the character her own and her voice on all of the songs sounds great. Melissa McCarthy is the biggest scene stealer of the movie. Her performance as Ursula is unlike anything we’ve seen from her before, and she knocks it out of the park. Jonah Hauer-King ends up being a perfect choice to play Prince Eric. He brings a certain charm to the character and his chemistry with Halle Bailey is a highlight of the movie. As for all of Ariel’s animal friends, they couldn’t have made better choices for these characters. Daveed Diggs is a highlight as Sebastian, providing plenty of humorous moments and a great sidekick for Ariel throughout. Awkwafina as Scuttle is the obvious comic relief, but she does well in her performance. Scuttle also has the best character design out of any of the animals featured. Lastly, Jacob Tremblay brings his boyish charm to the character of Flounder and puts in another quality performance.
Overall, The Little Mermaid (2023) is one of the best Disney live action remakes. While it does struggle with a longer than needed run time and some questionable visual effects, the cast here carries the movie and Rob Marshall is able to capture the heart of the original story making this a worthy remake.
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