Review ‘The Little Mermaid’: Live-action remake excels mainly because of phenomenal Halle Bailey

From Wednesday 24 May you can go to the cinema to watch the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. We already saw the film and noticed that the film remains largely faithful to the original from 1989, but that some innovations have been added. These will be positive for some and negative for others. But there will certainly be consensus on one thing: Halle Bailey is a phenomenal Ariel and the unquestionable highlight of this film.

A lot of ink has already been spilled over the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, from the moment the cast was announced, there were critical reactions. When we saw the first posters and trailers, there were again mixed reactions. But the full movie debunks many of these preconceptions. The Little Mermaid is a remake that stays very close to the original, but manages to add something in the extra scenes that was missing from the original.

Halle Bailey

In the remake, the leading role as mermaid Ariel is played by American singer and actress Halle Bailey. When she was announced, there was an immediate wave of criticism because “Ariel can’t be black”. However, Disney always supported the choice and recently we also found out that Halle Bailey was able to move everyone to tears during her audition. We also recently got to hear the full soundtrack, in which it became clear that Halle has the beautiful voice that an unnamed sea monster could be jealous of.

And in the final film, Halle Bailey makes it clear that she is indeed the perfect actress for the part. She knows how to portray Ariel’s curiosity perfectly and also convinces in the scenes in which she cannot speak. But it is especially in her singing that she knows how to excel. The version of the iconic song Part of Your World is magical, captivating and overwhelming, matching the magic of the original.

Realistic fish

A second point that received a lot of criticism before the release of the film is the appearance of sidekicks Sebastian (Daveed Diggs) and Flounder (Jacob Tremblay). For the remake they were also given a live-action look and that was not to everyone’s taste. The two have lost their cartoonish looks and are really a crab and a fish. At first it seems strange that Ariel is talking to an ordinary fish and a crab, but you soon get used to this and you also see the humor in it. In this remake, for example, Sebastian always walks sideways like a real crab does and Flounder is really like a fish out of water in the scenes above water.

A moment in which the reality of the aquatic animals is extensively portrayed is during the well-known song Under The Sea. In the animated film, this scene contains many comical moments, with the well-known “newt” with the “whistle“, “carp” with the “harp” and the “fluke” with his saxophone. There are none in the remake, but it is still a wonderful moment in the film that flawlessly captures the beauty of the underwater world. It’s a completely different version than you’re used to, but one that manages to convey the same feeling as the original.

New numbers

The songs from the original film continue to stand out in the remake. So are the undeniable highlights for us Part of Your World, Under The Sea, Kiss The Girl and Poor Unfortunate Souls, by the phenomenal Melissa McCarthy as Ursula. But four brand new songs were also written for the remake. These songs are a collaboration between the original composer of The Little MermaidAlan Menken, and Lin Manuel-Miranda (Moana, Encanto).

The first we get to hear quite early in the film. It’s about the number Wild Uncharted Waters, sung by Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King). In the song, he sings about his love for Ariel, whom he doesn’t really know at the time. He hopes to see her again and is willing to look far for it. The song highlights actor Jonah Hauer-King’s vocal talent, but also adds to the story. In the original film, Prince Eric has very little backstory, but in the remake we learn more about his life and his interests. Eric shares Ariel’s curiosity and you notice that their love is much less superficial than in the average Disney film.

The second new song we get to hear when Ariel has just landed and tries to understand life from above water. For The First Time is a typical transition song, which is useful at a time when Ariel can’t speak up because she no longer has a voice. We only see her singing in dream sequences, the rest takes place in her head.

In a new scene in the movie, Ariel and Prince Eric visit a village. There’s a new song playing Fathoms Below. It is a danceable number that fits perfectly with the exuberant atmosphere of the scene. The fourth and final new song is one from Ariel’s sidekicks, Scuttle (Awkwafina) and Sebastian (Daveed Diggs). This song is a style break from the other songs and will probably be a hit or miss are for the viewers. In The Scuttlebutt there is mainly rapping, which doesn’t happen often in Disney films.

Melissa McCarthy and Javier Bardem

Two actors who deserve an extra compliment for their role in The Little Mermaid are Melissa McCarthy and Javier Bardem. Melissa McCarthy plays one of the most iconic villains in Disney history. Her version of Ursula once again remains faithful to that of the original, but she is especially convincing in the nuances.

Javier Bardem plays King Triton, the father of Ariel (and a motley collection of other mermaids). He manages to find the right balance between the strict father, who wants to protect his daughter at all costs, but eventually also realizes that he cannot force her to lead an overprotective life.

Gift for true fans

Generally it is The Little Mermaid certainly a successful remake of the 1989 original. It’s the umpteenth live-action remake that Disney has fired at us in recent years, but we think it’s one of the best. Little has been done to the story, but the extra scenes, which extend the running time of the original film (1 hour and 23 minutes) to 2 hours and 15, are not arbitrary. This way we get to see a more in-depth Prince Eric and more scenes for the sidekicks.

The Little Mermaid is especially a gift for the true fans who have turned the original movie gray in their youth and want to feel that magic again of seeing their favorite movie on the big screen for the first time. The film is carried by a phenomenal Halle Bailey, who perfectly embodies the most famous mermaid in the world.

Check out the official trailer here The Little Mermaid:

The Little Mermaid will appear in Belgian theaters on Wednesday 24 May.

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