In 1989, after a few years of not very well received films and strong criticism from the audience, The little Mermaid He came to transform the fate of Disney. Taking Hans Christian Andersen’s homonymous story as inspiration, the animation managed to captivate an entire generation of viewers. In addition, it laid the foundations for a new season of success. Interestingly, the live action of The little Mermaid faces a similar situation, since the mouse house is not exactly going through a winning streak, will history repeat itself with this long-awaited film?
Ariel, the youngest and most rebellious of King Triton’s daughters, dreams of seeing the world beyond the sea, and while visiting the surface, she falls in love with the distinguished Prince Eric. Although mermaids are forbidden to associate with humans, Ariel must follow her heart. She makes a deal with the wicked sea witch, Ursula, who gives her the chance to experience life on land, but, at the same time, she puts her life and her father’s crown in jeopardy.
When we talk about animated classics that Disney has turned into live action, one of the controversial issues is the adaptation that is made of the story. Fortunately, screenwriter David Magee (Life of Pi) followed that classic “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” advice. In that way, The little Mermaid presents us with a faithful adaptation of the story we all know. Any fears about the film’s length (135 minutes, almost 50 more than its animated counterpart) should be dispelled, as the story additions help make Ariel and Eric’s relationship even more charming.
Here there are no drastic changes in the actions of each one, nor an aesthetic that stands out above the story. It is true that some new characters do not contribute much and their presence is not entirely justified; In addition, the tape presents certain rhythm problems, especially in the first act. However, they don’t detract too much from the final product, and might even go unnoticed.
Another essential aspect of a live action as The little Mermaid it’s your cast. And despite the hate received on social networks, Halle Bailey is in charge of silencing mouths from the first minutes. Not only is she talented when it comes to singing and she rocks with her rendition of “Part of Your World”. The wise direction of Rob Marshall (The return of Mary Poppins) allows him to demonstrate his strength when it comes to challenging Javier Bardem’s Triton. Regarding the scenes of her out of the water, Bailey also does a great job, and even without a voice she manages to convey the innocence that Ariel requires. This is how a star is born.
Unlike other Disney adaptations, here the male part is very well represented. Jonah Hauer-King manages to stand out as a brave, charming Eric, and with a certain depth that is appreciated. He is very helpful because the script gives him a lot to do, and even a new song that helps to understand his motivations. However, it is Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula who surprises the most. She’s not exactly terrifying like in the animated version, but she does mix in a great way everything the Oscar nominee has done in her career: she sings, she’s melodramatic, a little over the top, and at times she’s very threatening. The only “weak” point of the cast is Javier Bardem as Tritón. His performance is fulfilling, but he doesn’t have much to contribute to the film and at times he is relegated.
As far as the voice cast is concerned, Awkwafina is a welcome surprise as the wacky Scuttle. Along with Daveed Diggs’ Sebastian (the most outstanding in this section), she stars in a very peculiar musical. The only negative aspect is Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, since his vocal talent is overshadowed by the flashy aspect of his character, and not exactly for the better. This is how we come to one of the most criticized aspects of the film.
After seen in Avatar: The Path of Water, it is clear to us what can be achieved with digital underwater environments. And unfortunately The little Mermaid It does not reach such a level of visual effects. For the first few minutes it can take a bit of getting used to being “under the sea”, as the lighting and certain designs feel more artificial than usual. To this, let’s add that details like Javier Bardem’s hair seem strange and distracting.
Fortunately, as the minutes go by, the aquatic environment feels more natural, even with certain forgotten details. Ursula’s look also feels convincing, and the actual location shooting is appreciated for scenes that could have been resolved with CGI. A round of applause for the costume team, production design, and photography. Ironically, it is also the visual aspect that prevents The little Mermaid become as iconic a movie as the animated version. Although the story and its message are perfectly worked out, sometimes Rob Marshall’s film leans more towards the spectacle of a blockbuster, as it happens in the thunderous climax.
In the end, after years of expectations, controversy and meaningless criticism, Disney managed to have a great product on its hands. And while it falls short of the charm of the original film, the live action of The little Mermaid ranks among the studio’s best reinventions. It has charming musicals, compelling visuals, a very solid villain, and unbeatable protagonists. But even better: it respects the story on which it is based, stands on its own, and shows that changes are not necessary when you want to captivate the audience. This is how a classic is adapted.
Juan Jose Cruz I am one of those who always defended Robert Pattinson as Batman and can see the same movie in the theater up to 7 times. My guilty pleasure? Low budget horror movie.