This is a colourful and lively re-make of the 1989 animated film – but the running time could have been tightened slightly.
It would be fair to say that Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale has a much happier ending than the original and while it would be wonderful in the future to see the story recreated in its original form on screen, this live action re-make of the animated film fully embraces the joy and spirit of the 1989 film while adding depth to the characters.
As we know, the story follows that of Ariel, who is curious about the human world, which gets her into trouble with her father King Triton – particularly when she rescues Prince Eric from a shipwreck and of course falls in love with him. In desperation to join the human world, she makes a deal with the sea witch Ursula in which she has three days on land to make him fall in love with her or else she belongs to Ursula forever.
Now on the basis of the plot, it feels as though it doesn’t need a two hour and fifteen minute running time and it does feel as though the story is dragged out a little bit particularly towards the end (I wasn’t particularly convinced by the inclusion of the song ‘The Scuttlebutt’ ). However, this being said I did enjoy the sheer drama that director Rob Marshall has incorporated into the story, particularly during the climatic scenes that adds depth and edge of the seat moments with the help of impressive CGI.
The underwater scenes are for the most part beautiful to witness and there are moments in which you do wonder why Ariel in the long term would want to come on land given the spectacle she is surrounded by, with ‘Under The Sea’ being a real highlight moment. This being said on occasion, there are certain moments in which the CGI becomes slightly unbelievable taking you out of the story somewhat (I still can’t get used to the idea of how the fish of the sea’s lips move – it just looks slightly odd) but this is moments few and far between. Everything is vibrant and colourful to keep the audience thoroughly engaged from start to finish.
Elsewhere, I enjoyed the new orchestrations of Alan Menken’s score, with ‘Kiss the Girl having a really lovely contemporary rhythm to it that never undermines the romance behind the lyrics, while new song ‘Wild Unchartered Waters’ has a lovely theatricality about it, while remaining sincere with its lyrics.
The casting is absolutely spot on. Halle Bailey is a joy as Ariel, her crystal clear vocals a perfect match for the songs, while she also succeeds in making Ariel less a rebelious teenager than someone who wants more from her life than what is given to her. She is utterly compelling to watch. But she has a great supporting cast as well – from Daveed Diggs as Sebastian (whose disgruntled asides really puts a smile on my face) to Melissa McCarthy as Ursula – a subtly dangerous interpretation that continuous manages to draw you in despite knowing that essentially she is the villain of the piece.
A lot of criticism has been put towards Disney in terms of the quality of these live action re-makes which have had mixed success, but I feel as though The Little Mermaid can be considered a success in terms of sheer joy and the quality of the cast in bringing this story to life for a new audience to enjoy.
By Emma Clarendon
The Little Mermaid is available to stream on Disney + now.