Review: “The Little Mermaid” – A Live-Action Trip Under the Sea

Photo courtesy of Disney

We got a new look at our classic princess of the sea, as “The Little Mermaid” splashed into theaters and took the world by storm. 

Little kids and adults everywhere have been itching to see this film since it was announced back in 2016. This film, which opened May 26, stands as a live-action remake of the 1989 Disney classic featuring our favorite little mermaid, Ariel.

The big obvious change from the original to this live-action was the fact that this new Ariel, played by Halle Bailey, is a black actress with pipes of gold. Many had issues with her race as the original followed a young white mermaid with bright red hair. I think they quickly changed their minds when they first heard Bailey’s version of “Part of Your World.” The minute she started singing I knew she was a force to be reckoned with. 

She is Ariel.

I was filled to the brim with nostalgia the minute the film started, from the beginning scene where Ariel and Flounder escape a shark to the “Kiss the Girl” boat scene taking place in the lagoon. They incorporated several scenes and songs we were lucky enough to have in the original. 

We got to experience the iconic scene when Ariel finishes the song “Part of Your World” and she lifts up on the rock as the tide splashes up behind her. Besides Bailey’s obvious shaking from the cold, it was everything I could have ever dreamed of. We got some new improvements to some classic scenes/songs as well, such as “Under The Sea,” and its more colorful arrangement, and Ariel got some new outfits instead of the same three the entire movie.

Now let’s talk about the big thing I couldn’t stop hearing about prior to watching the film, the horrific depiction of Flounder. Typically when you hear his name, you think of the little yellow and blue sidekick fish who is one of the cutest cartoons you’ve ever laid eyes on. 

Not this.

As soon as the trailer hit the internet, everyone was talking about the sweet cartoon sea creatures that turned scary. When you think about a live-action you aren’t going to CGI the original Flounder and Sebastian in there. However, they could’ve made them more intriguing to look at, instead of losing his adorable appearance completely. 

In a review written by Lindsey Bahr from the AP News, she writes,  “The cute cartoons that stood in for Ariel’s seagull, crab and fish friends have been replaced with horrifyingly accurate depictions of said animals.” 

I will say, however, I enjoyed the new look of these characters overall. Scuttle was the perfect seagull as well as Sebastian being a more realistic-looking crab. These were changes we were destined to see since the live-action was announced and for those two, they did not disappoint. 

The new scenes, however, were PHENOMENAL. We get to experience more of Ariel and Eric’s adventures on land as they explore his kingdom. I felt like it gave a more realistic timeline of them falling in love. Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King, who plays Prince Eric, have incredible chemistry that just radiates off the screen.

Also for Hauer-King, he made the perfect Prince Eric! I didn’t think Eric could get any more dreamy and charismatic but he proved me wrong. Even his dog Max was perfect casting.

Contrary to the ’89 film, Eric gets his own song in this one, titled “Wild Uncharted Waters,” where he sings this ballad about his need to find the girl with the voice of an angel that saved him. It is a song of longing and love and it quickly became my new favorite in either film. 

On the topic of new songs, Scuttle even got his own in this film called “The Scuttlebutt,” and it left me even more horrified than I was when I saw Flounder for the first time. Comedian Awkwafina portrays Scuttle and is a hilarious comedic touch to this film except when they decide to have her sing. Lin Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton,” wrote this song and it was obvious he did. The song gave a similar vibe to his song “Guns and Ships” from “Hamilton.” As much as I love his work, not everything needs to have a rap, sometimes it just doesn’t fit the vibe, and for this film, it did not.

In an article by Jonathan Fuge from Movie Web, he captures how I feel 100%: “The latest clip from Disney’s live-action remake of ‘The Little Mermaid’ gives audiences the chance to hear the divisive new song, ‘The Scuttlebutt,’ for themselves. No doubt many will regret doing so.”

As a “Little Mermaid” lover since childhood, I will say, besides the obvious complaint about unneeded horrifying fish and rapping, this film was a dream come true. The choice to go with Bailey was a choice I will thank them for forever. Not only is she the perfect choice for this role but the clips I have seen of black kids admiring the representation they are receiving, are the videos I smile and cry to whenever I see them. Check out these videos and see what I mean.

If you want to know if it is worth a shot given our previous Disney let-downs in live-action remakes, which according to Rotten Tomatoes are “Pinocchio,” “Dumbo” and even “The Lion King,” well all I have to say is don’t be a “Poor Unfortunate Soul,” as Ursula sings, and give it a shot. 

You won’t regret it.

At a Glance:

The Little Mermaid (2023)

Where to Watch: In Theatres now

Starring: Halle Bailey,  Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Awkwafina, Daveed Diggs, Javier Bardem, and Jacob Tremblay.

Director: Rob Marshall

Music Composed by: Alan Menken and Lin Manuel Miranda.

Duration: 135 minutes

Age Rating: PG

Rating: ★★★★

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