The Little Mermaid has finally made its way to the big screen, and as a fan of the original, I was both excited and skeptical about this remake. However, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
One of the things that impressed me the most about The Little Mermaid is its great opening. It immediately feeds us the nostalgia that fans of the original films are looking for. There are some key scenes and locations that are required for this remake that fans will appreciate. The sunken ship and shark attack opening are one of those scenes, and it’s incredible to see this familiar setting in a new way. I remember how this movie helped me to develop a healthy fear of sharks at a young age. The opening moments of the movie might be triggering for those of us who remember. What I especially enjoy about this scene is that it feels like a direct remake of what I remember as a kid, and it feeds that nostalgia that I didn’t know I wanted.
But the movie doesn’t ease up, because it quickly hits us with the songs. OMG the songs! Halle Bailey‘s voice is PERFECT as Ariel and proves that The Little Mermaid songs still hit. I somehow forgot I memorized so many of these songs as a kid. That all ended when that time machine of a movie theater transported me to my childhood, and 8-year-old me started singing “Under the Sea.” These damn Disney movies had me wanting to live underwater more than the Talokans in “Wakanda Forever.” “The Little Mermaid” is a musical first and foremost, so it was important that the movie had some great music. The updates of the original classic songs are pretty good to listen to and will be stuck in your head for days.
And let’s talk about the visuals! They are beautiful. The sunken ship, Triton’s palace, Ariel’s Grotto, and even Ursula’s lair are all beautiful to see in this new adaptation. There is a lot of eye candy in The Little Mermaid that will not give your eyes a break throughout the entire film. I feel like my eyes were eating Skittles with the rainbow of colors attacking my optics at all times. This is a beautiful movie to watch.
Now, I admit that I love the original character designers for Sebastian and Flounder. They are perfect and have aged incredibly well. These new designs take getting used to. IF I take off my biased eyes and forget that those other designs exist, then these new looks are fine. What these characters lack in looks, they make up for with character, making them just as lovable as the originals.
And speaking of characters, let’s talk about Sebastian. This character steals the whole show. You can take everyone else out and leave Sebastian, and you’ll still have fun with his PG-friendly one-liners. Flounder and Scuttle have some moments too, but you can build a franchise around Sebastian alone.
Melissa McCarthy‘s performance as Ursula is VERY over the top, but you know what? It really, really works. Ursula is an over-the-top character. Melissa brings playfulness and deviousness to the character to make her both similar but refreshing. She’s not just mimicking what came before; she’s actually adding her own spin to the character, and I find this extremely satisfying, as she’s without a doubt one of the most important characters in the movie.
The performances in this are… hit or miss. The Little Mermaid has some fantastic singing which requires some fantastic singers. The balance between the dialogue, and spoken performance, compared to the singing is inconsistent throughout the movie, and that hurts the experience. Even acclaimed actor Javier Bardem turned in a subdued and flat performance as King of the Seas Triton. It’s not just Bardem’s performance that’s the issue, but a lot of the other performances come across as flat or uninspired. It’s a shame because the singing performances are fantastic, but the dialogue scenes just don’t quite hit the mark.
The remake also stuck too close to the source material. There’s nothing original that gets added or introduced in this movie to help differentiate it from the original. I love the original The Little Mermaid and I think the story holds up well. I think it’s a missed opportunity to introduce additional new songs or additional new moments that weren’t in the original. Now there are new songs and moments like the Scuttle-Butt rap but there aren’t very many of these moments. The Little Mermaid 2023 plays it pretty safe by being an almost direct remake of the animated original. It feels like the filmmakers were avoiding the risk of introducing too much change, which is a shame.
Why do movies do this to the Jamaican accent? I understand wanting to make The Little Mermaid accessible to as many people as possible but is this really the way? As much as I like Daveed Diggs‘ Sebastian in this that accent is like nails on a chalkboard bad. It’s not just Diggs either, there are other actors in the film who struggle with the Jamaican accent and it really takes you out of the movie. It’s a shame because Sebastian is such a great character and Diggs does a fantastic job with the singing, but the accent is just too distracting.
The Little Mermaid is a good movie for the kids. It’s not really going to do it for the millennials who grew up on this, but younger parents with young children will have a winner here. The singing performances are fantastic and the visuals are stunning, but the lackluster dialogue scenes and inconsistent performances keep it from being a great movie. It’s a shame that the filmmakers didn’t take more risks and try to differentiate this remake from the original, but it’s still an enjoyable movie for what it is. If you’re a fan of the original, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here, just don’t expect anything groundbreaking or revolutionary.
The Little Mermaid Review: Is This Remake Worth a Watch?
- Acting – 6/10
- Cinematography/Visual Effects – 7/10
- Plot/Screenplay – 6/10
- Setting/Theme – 8/10
- Watchability – 8/10
- Rewatchability – 7/10