‘The Little Mermaid’ – Review
If you’re in need of an enchanting fairytale that will whisk you off to a far away place filled with magic, song and adventure then Walt Disney Pictures’ bold-reimagining of The Little Mermaid is the piece of cinematic enchantment you need to witness.
Ariel (Halle Bailey), the youngest daughter of the kingdom Atlantica’s ruler King Triton (Javier Bardem), is fascinated with the human world but mermaids are forbidden to explore it. After saving Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) from a shipwreck and falling in love with him, she becomes determined to be with him in the world above water. These actions lead to a confrontation with her father and an encounter with the conniving sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), making a deal with her to trade her beautiful voice for human legs so she can discover the world above water and impress Eric. However, this ultimately places her life (and her father’s crown) in jeopardy.
Originally brought to life in 1989 and sparking the era of the Disney Renaissance, The Little Mermaid is a timeless tale of love and beauty across both sea and land. Now filmmaker Rob Marshall brings it to life in a bold and colourful new cinematic experience that will enchant audiences. With a long history shared with Disney, in addition to being a master of the big screen musical, with eclectic works including Chicago and Nine, Marshall is the perfect artisan to re-interpret The Little Mermaid for a whole new generation. And this is a special watch. Whether you’re new to this timeless story as I was, or a long time fan of the original Disney classic, you will get caught up in the emotion, whimsy, escapism and romance of this timeless story. Marshall dials up the rhythm with this blockbuster event, and you’ll feel the groove in your feet and the flutter in your heart.
Diving head first into this grand fairytale is rising star Halle Bailey as Ariel, and the young singer-songwriter turned actress is utterly fantastical in this picture. Thanks to a perfect combination of doe-eyed innocence and intellectual curiosity, Bailey effortlessly brings Ariel to life, and her stunning voice leads to plenty of showstopping musical moments. Bailey leans heavily into the characters longing to find a place beyond what she knows, and she undergoes an incredible journey to find love and to save her voice. The young actress opens her heart to audiences with this beautiful performance, and her warmth will endear her to audiences as a Disney Princess who can truly be looked up to.
Bringing a dishy Broadway menace to the infamous Ursula is Melissa McCarthy. And The Little Mermaid offers the respected comedic actress a worthy challenge that she eagerly accepts. Sinister and smarmy in her performance, McCarthy is the ultimate cheat and conwoman as Ursula and she’s got her eyes on how to use the innocent Ariel for her own purpose. McCarthy is a hoot in the role, and her performance will surprise many theatre goers. Standing on the opposite side of Ursula is Academy Award winner Javier Bardem as the mighty, noble and proud Monarch of the Ocean, King Triton. Regal and stoic, he’s also a father whose given to bouts of over-protectiveness and is blind to the possibility of Ariel’s dreams. Bardem shares a great paternal instinct to Bailey, and he’s a strong and powerful centre piece to the film.
Praise must be given to singer-songwriter Daveed Diggs who steals scene after scene as King Triton’s loyal and often put-upon Majordomo and court composer Sebastian. Being given the task to mind Ariel is a job he’s none to pleased with, and Digg’s spot on comedic timing and control of music and rhythm leads to some of the film’s most enchanting scenes, including a brilliantly colourful rendition of ‘Under The Sea’. Awkwafina brings her own brand of trademark quick-fire quirks to the dim-witted, yet affectionate Scuttle. While Jacob Tremblay brings out the friendly nervousness of Ariel’s best friend Flounder, who always seems to be finding himself in some form of trouble.
In terms of the cinematic experience, The Little Mermaid is absolutely incredible to look upon. Thanks to its Caribbean setting, and a strong palette of crisp marine colours balanced with a sprinkling of bright pastels, Marshall and his team have crafted the ultimate island getaway. Matched with this is the beautiful ecosphere of the ocean’s floor, which comes to life with colour and light. The Little Mermaid truly captures the serenity of the magnificent creatures of the deep. Then there’s the rousing and classic score re-interpreted by the talent of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the legendary Alan Menken. The emotion of The Little Mermaid is brought through by its wonderful use of music, and this is a classic fairytale in every sense of the word.
The Little Mermaid is a spectacular and special watch, and Disney fans will again be dazzled and delighted by this classic narrative. It truly is a tale to take you away to a magical place under the sea.
Image: Walt Disney Pictures