Disney is continuing to embrace all things live-action with a remake of the 1989 Disney animated classic The Little Mermaid. Nearly 35 years after the original film hit theaters, director Rob Marshall has made a splash with his live-action version of the fairytale. Halle Bailey makes the biggest splash of all as the beloved Ariel.
Halle is a magnetic screen presence. Jodi Benson’s voice has become synonymous with Ariel over 3 decades, but Halle creates an Ariel that’s entirely new and familiar at the same time. She balances Ariel’s youthful innocence and yearning for a life outside of the sea effortlessly. And let’s not forget about her voice. Halle’s “Part of Your World” performance will leave you with full-body goosebumps. You’ll want to give her a standing ovation right then and there.
The actress was unfairly criticized by racist online trolls who were upset that a Black actress was cast in the role of Ariel — who is a fictional mermaid. Not that she ever needed to prove her worth to any critics, but she simply is Ariel. The Grammy nominee embodies everything we know and love about the character. She is an inspiring role model for all, but especially for young Black girls who should be able to see themselves onscreen in roles like this. Whether she’s under the sea or on dry land (with no voice), Halle shines in every scene. She exudes effervescence and grace.
Once Ariel makes her deal with Ursula to become human, she crosses paths with Jonah Hauer-King’s Prince Eric again. So much of the land scenes hinge on the chemistry between Ariel and Prince Eric, which is even more complicated because Ariel can’t use her voice, but this is no feat for Halle and Jonah. Their natural chemistry simmers in every single scene. Similar to Halle, Jonah is a star on the rise. His turn as the dashing and surprisingly deep Prince Eric is a star-making role for the British actor.
Melissa McCarthy is an excellent Ursula when she’s onscreen, and she makes dives full force into what she’s given. Pat Carroll’s version of Ursula is so iconic, and it feels like Melissa’s live-action Ursula had her wickedness cut down. The movie needed more Ursula and more of her legendary manipulation. Javier Bardem is a talented actor, but the role of King Triton was not for him.
There were some complaints about the look of the underwater scenes prior to the film’s release. This is unnecessary criticism. Since the movie couldn’t actually film all of the scenes underwater, what The Little Mermaid’s team was able to do to recreate such a natural underwater arena is pretty astounding. Jacob Tremblay’s adorable voice-over work is able to triumph over any hate over Flounder’s look in the film.
The movie does go on a smidge too long. With a runtime of 2 hours and 15 minutes, the underwater exposition could have been shortened. The ending is stilted with a moment that feels awkward and forced, but overall the film is a cinematic victory. The musical numbers — the familiar ones and the new ones — are an absolute delight. If you’re a fan of The Little Mermaid, then you’ll respect the live-action version. The film is a fun and enjoyable spectacle the entire family will enjoy. The Little Mermaid swims into theaters on May 26.
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