1989’s The Little Mermaid saw the beginning of a turnaround for Disney’s animated features after a decade of poorly received films that included The Black Cauldron, Oliver & Co and several others. And the studio’s stroke of genius of taking a second bite at their back catalogue by reimagining them as live action features and now it’s the turn of The Little Mermaid – a deserved firm favourite with the Disney princess brigade.
Taking the title role as Arial is Halle Bailey a decision bizarrely regarded as controversial at the time but in reality ideally cast as she captures the essence, purity and wide eyed innocence of the role matched with a soaring vocal range. The beloved story sees the mermaid princess makes a Faustian pact with Ursula the sea witch played by Melissa McCarthy ideally cast with something of the appearance of Dawn French and demeanour of the late drag queen Divine about her incarnation. It sees Arial agreeing to trade her voice for human legs – a deal that we wish Amanda Holden would take though as her beleaguered ex-husband found it was a trade too far to hope that she would keep them together. It’s as a mermaid that Arial has saved the dashing Prince Eric from drowning and it’s in human form she returns in an attempt to find him and rekindle a fleeting romantic moment and hopefully a lasting love.
The film retains the comic creature sidekicks a crab, a fish and a seabird voiced respectively by Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay and Awkwafina (who is becoming something of a regular in Disney movies including the excellent Raya and the Last Dragon and the Disney owned Marvel film ‘Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ but their faces aren’t as much fun or indeed able to emote as their animated counterparts. And therein lies the problem the animated original one of Disney’s best and most popular with successive generations discovering it but the underwater CGI, impressive as it is, is pretty murky and running at well over two hours has bloated this to a proportion that won’t hold the attention for its intended audience even with the addition of a few new songs which are unnecessary. A climatic battle with an enraged Ursula inflated to gigantic and furious proportions is impressive in a Clash of the Titans kind of way (‘Release the Ursula!’ is never said but you catch our drift) but this live action version of The Little Mermaid with all its occasionally good moments underlines that not all live action remakes improve on the original.
related feature: Peter Pan and Wendy – Disney’s live action version reviewed here
Here’s The Little Mermaid trailer…..